Positive cases of COVID-19 among staff and students at Nevis School led to the decision to cancel school this week.

“We took a big hit over the weekend with 13 staff who either tested positive or were in quarantine,” Principal Brian Michaelson said at Monday night’s school board meeting. “We didn’t have enough people to carry on this week.”

Superintendent Gregg Parks said that by Monday the number of staff affected had grown to 18. “We can plan all we want, but COVID gets a vote in the situation,” he said. “Going into the weekend we thought we had all the staffing to take care of Monday and Tuesday this week, but with 18 staff members either testing positive or in quarantine, we thought of having bus drivers and custodians helping out, but finally realized we can’t do it with the staff who are out. As most of you can guess, Brian (Michaelson) and I are part of that quarantine system despite our best efforts to stay away from each other. So, besides being out two administrators and a bus driver, everybody else is either a classroom aide or a classroom teacher. With 47 teachers and an additional 15 paras, that’s 15 out of 62 classroom staff missing and that’s a big chunk to try and absorb.”

Parks thanked the COVID management team for their input into the decision-making process. “We worked on a plan to bring in grades K-2 and how to work over the next three days on a plan of how to deliver ipads, Chromebooks, homework and meals to kids, putting all those together this week so that we have a quality product for our families and communities starting next Monday,” he said.

The district will also use this time to sanitize buildings and develop plans for the distance-learning model that will be in place from for grades 3-12 following Thanksgiving break. The plan is for students in PreK to second grade to have in-person learning Nov. 30-Dec. 23. They are also working on a plan to provide tutoring for at risk students during that time.

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During December, the COVID Management Team will continue to monitor the Hubbard County case rates and their impact on the district’s learning community. Changes in trends may change the learning model for students in grades PreK-2 as well as when older students can safely return to in person learning.

The school’s winter break is Dec. 24-Jan. 1. What model the school will be in on Jan. 4 depends on many factors.

“I said the last time we had a large influx of COVID in the building it felt like a tidal wave,” Parks said. “This was a tidal wave much bigger than our original one and it just kept rolling and rolling and rolling on us. One of the things we need to do is to continue to watch the situation as it develops over the next three weeks. We had a chance today to have a forum with Dr. Wilcox at the Sanford Health Center in Bemidji. He indicated that, in the northern area of the state that we’re in, the first wave of COVID is not really scheduled to reach its peak until the first week in December. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and make recommendations as to what happens after the Christmas holiday.”

Michaelson’s report showed that attendance in the high school was 88.2 percent this past month compared with 96 percent last year and elementary attendance dropped from 96.5 percent last year to 89.5 percent this year.

“Some students thought if they were quarantined they had a 14-day vacation,” he said. “They need to check in if they are physically able. If a student is too ill to do online classes, then a parent needs to call the school and report it.”

Student council representative Megan Lindow said student council feedback is that hybrid learning went much better this time around. “Both teachers and students were prepared for the transition,” she said. “It was much easier this time. Teacher and student communication has been getting better. We’re learning as we go. Kids I talked to are optimistic that returning to distance learning will also go much better than the first time. And having this week off is appreciated by the students because they need the make up time.”

A “Nevis News” video segment to help families stay connected is available on the school website.