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School Board receives COVID protocol update

Dr. Aaron Johnson reviews current COVID health guidelines with board

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Oct 10, 2021

Blue Earth Area school nurse Ann Crofton updates the school board, above.

The Blue Earth Area School Board spent quite a bit of time at their meeting on Monday night, Oct. 4, discussing the current COVID-19 local situation.

Board members heard an update from Dr. Aaron Johnson of United Hospital District, via the phone, about the current health guidelines.

“My fear is we get a wave of the COVID virus here and get really sick kids,” Johnson said. “And no one wants to see that.”

Johnson said he felt masks definitely help prevent the spread of the virus, but understands the concerns with it being a mandate.

“Personally I don’t want to feel I gave someone this (COVID),” he said. “But forcing someone is counter to what we do in the U.S. We make this more difficult than it should be.”

Johnson gave a report on how COVID-19 has been handled locally.

“In no way, shape or form am I an expert,” Johnson said. “And I am not speaking to you as a representative of UHD.”

Johnson said that, like many, he was skeptical at first when the vaccines became available.

“I did not believe it could be done that fast,” he said. “I was the second person to get the vaccine in Faribault County. I wanted to make sure it was safe for my patients.”

Now he says he is a believer in the vaccines and urges everyone to get it. Even if it does not keep a person from getting COVID, it can prevent a severe case.

Superintendent Mandy Fletcher said she and school nurse Anne Crofton have been having weekly phone meetings with Dr. Johnson, as well as video meetings with other schools.

Fletcher sent out a letter to parents on Friday, Oct. 1, which detailed the plans the school has in place and was meant to help the school with ramping up mask wearing among all students.

While the school does not mandate mask wearing, they are now strongly recommending all students and staff wear masks and follow other safety protocols. Before, their stance was to encourage mask wearing.

School nurse Crofton also gave a report to the board members on a grant the school received to purchase 400 COVID rapid result test kits.

These will be given to students who show symptoms, but will only be administered with parental approval.

Superintendent Fletcher said this is part of the school’s plan to fill in when parents and students do not have access to COVID testing, a decision made after the school learned there is a shortage of testing kits.

The grant came from the Minnesota Department of Education and was optional for school districts.

In other business at the meeting, the board:

• Learned from Fletcher that enrollment at BEA Schools is up from last year, to 1,052 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, as of Oct. 1. Last year the enrollment was at 1,033 at the same date.

Fletcher also updated the board on the ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds coming to Blue Earth Area. Fletcher said the school district will be receiving $1.5 million in what are also known as Esser III funds.

• Heard an update from Alison Schmidt, curriculum and instruction director. She reported on progress of selecting a new math curriculum for all grades.

The current curriculum is at least 20 years old, she said. Choosing the new curriculum will be done during this school year, and it will be in place for next year.

• Accepted the resignations of John Wirkus as a custodian and Gary Holmseth as tech integrationist. Board chair Sue Rosenau thanked them for their years of service.