Catching up on the covid craze

The Cannon Falls School District’s COVID Advisory Committee has been working vigorously to keep the community safe.


Amelia Qualey

Mr. Lindow, a staff representative on the COVID Advisory Committee, has the best interest of his students and community in mind.

In mid-August, the Cannon Falls School District’s COVID Advisory Committee had its first meeting. The committee is made up of representatives from the school administration, school board members, teachers, parents, students, health officials, and maintenance staff. They meet once every week and look at the newest COVID statistics in Goodhue and Dakota Counties. They look at data from both counties because the students at Cannon Falls Area Schools live in a combination of the two counties. Although the committee is using the most recent data available to them, the data is considered “lag data.” The information the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) relays to the public is two weeks old so they have time to contact trace positive cases in the two counties. The COVID advisory committee decides whether students at Cannon Falls will have full-time distance learning, hybrid learning, or full-time in-person learning.

The COVID Advisory Committee decides how the school will be run based on a variety of factors. The main piece of information that influences their decision is the number of positive cases there are per 10,000 people in the last 14 days. For example, the MDH recommends that if there are 50 or more cases over 14 days, both the elementary school and the high school would have to do full-time distance learning. However, this is just a recommendation. If there is a large spike in cases in one school district in the county, but not in others, the committee may decide to keep what they are doing even if the case numbers in the county are higher than the recommendation. 

Bucky Lindow, the staff representative for the COVID Advisory Committee, described how each meeting is run by stating “The discussions always begin with the newest most relevant data.  We receive data about Goodhue County 14-day Covid rates and also data about what has happened among students and staff at ISD 252. The representative of each sector has a chance to report how things are going and to ask any questions they may have. We always end the meeting by deciding to stay in our current learning scenarios or make a change.  In August we recommended “All in” for grades K-5 and “hybrid” for grades 6-12.” The work the committee does is critical to maintaining a school for all ages not only as a productive learning environment, but most importantly, a safe one.

From mid-August up to October 30, they hadn’t changed the learning plan since the beginning of the school year, keeping it with full-time in-school learning for the elementary school students and hybrid learning for the high school students. However, on October 30, the number of cases per 10,000 people in Goodhue county surpassed the recommendation for having elementary students continue full-time in-person learning. A letter sent that day from Jeff Sampson, the superintendent, went out to guardians of students at both the high school and elementary school stating, “This isn’t a good time to let our guard down, as Goodhue county numbers have been on the rise for the past couple of weeks. We not only use Goodhue and Dakota County data (in our COVID advisory meetings), we also use data specific to the Cannon Falls Area School District and data from within our buildings on positive case counts and quarantine counts. With that being said, the committee decided today, October 30, 2020, that we will be going to a hybrid learning model in the elementary and staying with the current hybrid model in the middle school and high school.” This will not change anything for the middle and high school, but elementary school students will follow a schedule of in-school and distance learning like the high school. Guardians can choose to have their students do full-time distance learning regardless of what the committee decides.

This letter from Sampson also introduced a new COVID dashboard with the latest information from within the school regarding how many students and staff are quarantining and how many have tested positive for COVID. The dashboard is updated weekly, so that students, parents, and other members of the community can get the latest information directly from the school. To find the dashboard, go to the Cannon Falls Area Schools website, under the parent drop-down-menu, and click the very first link titled “COVID-19 Response Plan.”