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BEA Board gets COVID-19 update

There have been 15 confirmed cases among students and staff

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Nov 15, 2020

The information shown at left can be found on BEA’s website and gives an update on COVID-19 in the school district.

COVID-19 once again was a major topic of discussion at Blue Earth Area’s School Board meeting last Monday evening, Nov. 9.

“We had no idea what schools would look like when they reopened this fall,” Fletcher commented. “Would we see transmission? We really had no idea.”

Now that school has been in session for 10 weeks, the district has a much better understanding of how the virus is affecting us locally, according to Fletcher.

“Before I share some statistics, I want to say through the many, many conversations and surveys we have done with our parents and communities, along with the conversations with our students here at school, we know the students want to be here in the building learning,” Fletcher stated. “We also know our families are highly concerned about the impact on the mental health and social emotional health of students when they are not in the building.”

She then shared some statistics school nurse Ann Croften provided.

“We have one active case in the students/staff at the high school. We have 15 students and three staff members on quarantine,” Fletcher said. “The middle school has one active case in the staff and nine students on quarantine. The elementary building has three active cases in students, 29 students and six staff on quarantine.”

Fletcher said the number of students who have been out on quarantine is 455.

“But when you dig into the numbers further, other than siblings, these close contacts are not coming back testing positive for COVID,” she remarked. “Once we had six to seven weeks worth of data we were seeing our school was not a super spreader.”

Fletcher explained she, along with other superintendents from the southern part of the state, have shared their data with officials from the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Education and Senator Julie Rosen.

“Our concern is over the number of students needing to be sent home on quarantine who are not testing positive,” she offered. “It raises the question of whether we are sending too many kids home.”

Fletcher continued with some other concerns.

“It is impacting the mental health of the students as well as their academic progress and attendance,” she shared. “Another concern is the bussing situation which states if a student tests positive and was on the bus for 30 minutes or longer then everyone who was on the bus is quarantined. The amount of stress and mental health impacts we are seeing on students and staff dealing with all of the requirements placed on the schools is very concerning.”

Fletcher said the COVID numbers in the state are currently not heading in the right direction.

“Unfortunately, it is possible BEA will have to go to a more restrictive model soon – at least at the K-7 site,” she commented. “But at least we can share with our own families we are not seeing transmission here at BEA.”

The district also has taken steps to keep people informed about the number of active cases in the school, according to Fletcher.

“Jenn Berkner, our tech director, was able to get our COVID Dashboard up and running today on the school website,” she told the board members. “We will try and keep it updated as often as possible, but keep in mind there might be a little lag time of a few days.”

Fletcher also addressed Governor Walz’ latest Executive Orders issued the prior week.

“I do not really have much to report on since these latest orders were a total surprise to schools, and as such, have caused us to have more questions than answers,” she said. “We are waiting for more clarification coming from the Minnesota Department of Education later this week.”