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Wrenshall to continue to monitor COVID-19 cases in the district

After closing school early for the holidays and implementing a mask mandate when students and staff returned, the Wrenshall School Board plans to monitor cases for a two-week period before making a decision on the mandate.

Wrenshall School File.jpg
Wrenshall School Clint Austin / 2021 File / Duluth News Tribune
Clint Austin / 2021 File / Duluth News Tribune

The Wrenshall School Board decided to monitor COVID-19 cases within the district before making any policy changes during its committee of the whole meeting Wednesday, Jan. 5.

The district closed early for winter break when students and teachers started testing positive for the virus.

Within the district’s current plan, whenever 5% of students and staff are positive for the virus, a mask requirement will take place.

Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro informed the board during the meeting that the district currently has 10 positive cases, but is waiting on results for 17 possible cases. Because of the district’s size, 5% of students and staff equates to 22 people.

While the district does not currently meet the 5% mark, as the holidays have just ended Belcastro recommended the board have a buffer period to allow results to come back and for people who might develop symptoms to get tested.

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Board member Cindy Bourn felt it was beneficial to keep masking in place to catch up with any testing backups.
“With the lag between exposure and symptoms, given all the socializing over the weekend, I think it is wise to keep the masks probably for two weeks,” she said.

Board member Jack Eudy said he ran into the school nurse who told him getting through the two-week period would allow cases to drop off.

“You’re not going to make everybody happy, half the people are going to be mad, half the people are going to be happy,” he said. “It is one of those deals where we have to give and take, and I think in this situation right now I have to say … we should let it go for two more weeks.”

The current policy will also affect sporting events in the district. For community members, coaches and players on the bench, masks will be required. They will not be required for students playing or referees.

The district also has testing kits available, which can be requested by students or staff through the school nurse.

While most board members were in agreement with the recommendation, newly-chosen board chair Misty Bergman said she felt masks will not help curb the numbers.

“I get it, it is making everybody feel like they are protected,” she said.

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The board is also prepared to look into a policy to meet the The federal Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency temporary standard, which went into effect on Monday, Jan. 3.

While the U.S. Supreme Court will hear opening arguments about the standard on Friday, Jan. 7, employers with over 100 employees are being proactive with the policy in case the court upholds it.

Belcastro explained the information to the board and noted options will be made available during the board's regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 10, for a board vote.

“Information keeps coming out as we speak,” she said. “We are going to follow and work closely with the Minnesota School Board Association.”

In other business, board members chose their leaders during the organizational meeting, which was held prior to the committee of the whole meeting.

Bergman was nominated for board chair and unanimously selected. The newest member of the board, Bourn, was unanimously voted as the new vice-chair.

An update was given on board member Alice Kloepfer, who had tested positive for COVID-19 in November. Officials said she is making progress and doing better.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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