The Cloquet School District will see a significant reduction in COVID-19 protocols and guidelines this summer following the loosening of restrictions at the state level.

As a part of the federal funds the district received from the American Rescue Plan Act, all United States schools were required to develop a safe learning plan to assure students a safe return to in-person learning during the summer.

Cloquet Superintendent Michael Cary said that because Minnesota schools were already required to have safe learning plans in place, they were permitted to simply amend the existing plans to align with new COVID-19 guidance.

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“Virtually everything has changed from being a requirement to a recommendation," Cary said of the evolving COVID-19 government guidelines.

Because of these changes, Cary worked with the district's administration team to amend Cloquet's plan, shifting most COVID-19 guidelines from being required to being a personal choice.

The school board voted unanimously on Monday, June 14, to amend the school's safe learning plan to allow for optional masking in school buildings, as well as a loosened approach to contact tracing and social distancing.

According to Cary, all COVID-19 cases will still be reported to the state, and those who come in close contact with a positive case will be notified. However, people who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person will not be required to quarantine if they do not have symptoms. People who have symptoms of COVID-19 will be asked to quarantine.

Social distancing will be practiced when activities and lesson plans allow.

“We’re just starting to dial back," Cary said. “We’re not completely eliminating everything, but we’re slowly scaling back … just like the state is scaling back.”

Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention requirements, masking will still be required on school buses. Officials will also continue with their cleaning policies and will have hygiene items such as hand sanitizer available.

"Cloquet Public Schools has been in consistent communication with Carlton County Public Health and other local health care officials throughout the period of the pandemic," the safe learning plan said. "We will continue to work with local and state officials as may be necessary to comply with requirements ... throughout the summer session and to monitor the status of COVID-19 prevalence in our region."

In addition to adjusting their COVID-19 policies, the safe learning plan also expanded the school district's summer services to support students while they navigate the impacts of the pandemic.

No public comments were made regarding the measure at the school board meeting, despite a designated opportunity for the community to speak. Parents were informed of changes to the safe learning plan, according to Cary, who said the newly-approved plan will be posted on the school district website.