North Branch Schools to move to Distance Learning over holidays

In what can be called a preventative action, the North Branch Are Public Schools will be transitioning to a full distance learning model for the duration of the holiday season. The move comes both despite, and because of, the fact that while positive COVID counts continue to increase at rapid rates around the county, the school district itself has had minimal confirmed positive cases from staff and students.

According to the district’s “Return to Learn!” web page, from Nov. 2 - 8, nine new positive cases were reported among students and seven new cases were reported among staff. According to the district, a majority of these new positive cases were the result of community spread outside the school setting.

“I commend staff and students for making these critical adjustments and adhering to the protocols we have put in place while keeping as much normalcy in our school system as possible,” said a message to parents from Superintendent Sara Paul on the web page.

In an attempt to keep those numbers low, however, Paul said the decision has been made to temporarily discontinue on-site instruction for all students PK-12, with the last date for on-site instruction being Friday, Nov. 20, which is the district’s last day of the first trimester. There will be no school on Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 23 - 25, in order for staff to prepare for the remote learning, which will begin on Monday, Nov. 30 (Thursday, Nov. 26 is Thanksgiving Day).

“We are doing a good job of minimizing school transmission, (however) Chisago and Isanti County level data continues to increase, which is a concern,” Paul said. “The upcoming holidays bring opportunities for social gatherings that so many look forward to all year. The reality of the upcoming increase in social gatherings is ultimately why NBAPS is making a shift to distance learning for all students after Thanksgiving and through the holiday season.”

The district is hoping, barring a drastic increase county-wide or other extenuating circumstances, to return to one of their five-day on-site learning levels on January 19.

“This target return date allows for a 14-day incubation period following the holiday season,” explained Paul. “According to MDH (Minnesota Department of Health), this will mitigate the viral spread associated with holiday activities. NBAPS staff has done great work keeping COVID from spreading within our schools. It is realistic that we can return to in-school instruction after the holidays.”

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