Albert Lea reimplementing mask requirement for secondary students

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(ABC 6 News) – Thursday, Albert Lea Area Schools announced changes in its masking policy for sixth through 12th grades.

The change comes as 290 students are currently quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19 and 36 have tested positive for the virus after the first five days of school.

It took the district until early October last year to reach this threshold of positive cases.

In a letter to the district, Superintendent Mike Funk said that the goal at the beginning of the year was to educate students in a safe and healthy environment that minimized disruption from Covid-19.

Masking was recommended, but not required, and daily screenings and thermal scans were conducted.

“Unfortunately, our first week of school has been significantly disrupted from the large virus spread within our community,” Funk said.

As a result, effective Monday, August 30, the district is implementing the following changes:

All secondary students in Albert Lea Area Schools will wear a mask during the school day through the end of first quarter (Wednesday, October 20). Students may remove the masks for lunch. This decision will be revisited in mid-October.

Since students will be masked, they will not be subject to quarantine unless they have symptoms, or have been exposed while eating lunch.

Students currently quarantined at the secondary level from an in school exposure with no symptoms and who are not awaiting test results can return to school on Monday, August 30.

Students participating in indoor sports (Volleyball and Swimming) will be masked while not actively participating. Fans will be required to wear masks.

Students participating in outdoor sports will not be required to mask. Fans in attendance at outdoor games will not be required to mask.

Individuals who attend indoor concerts will be required to mask.

The district is not seeing the level of Covid activity in elementary schools as they we are at the secondary level.

Elementary students will not be required to mask, except on the bus.

If a positive case is identified in school, students who are considered a close contact to a classmate will be sent home with their entire class.

  • All close contacts will stay home 24 hours, while their classroom is disinfected. They will receive assignments from the teachers during this period.
  • Students who test positive will be quarantined out of school for 10 days.
  • If the close contacts have no symptoms, and are not awaiting test results, parents can choose to send them back to school with a mask. The masked close contacts will be cohorted with their classmates in their classroom.
  • Specialist teachers from art and music will push in, and kids will eat lunch in their room.
  • Students will remain masked and isolated for the duration of the quarantine period.

Parents may choose to keep their students at home during the quarantine period. Students who quarantine at home will receive homework from their teachers for the duration of the quarantine.

Classrooms that are currently in quarantine can return to school on Monday, August 30, for in-person learning using the procedures listed above.

The district strongly recommending that staff who are working with masked students lead by example, and mask up for their students. Masked or vaccinated staff with no symptoms are not subject to quarantine.