OHS moves to distance learning

Starting Tuesday, Nov. 17 OHS will be moving from hybrid to distance learning

In+a+morning+school+board+meeting+on+Nov.13%2C+it+was+approved+to+move+grades+6-12+to+Distance+Learning+starting+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+17

Designed by Magnet Staff

In a morning school board meeting on Nov.13, it was approved to move grades 6-12 to Distance Learning starting on Tuesday, Nov. 17

Jonny Clubb, Writer

On the morning of Friday, Nov.13,  the Owatonna School Board approved to move from hybrid learning to distance learning. OHS teachers and students were notified shortly after.  Starting next Tuesday, November, 17 the high school would be moving to distance learning, with a transition day on November 16. The school board approved a tentative return is set for Dec. 7.  Families were notified a little later via email and phone call around later that morning. The decision to move into distance learning comes on the heels of rising coronavirus cases rising throughout Minnesota, Steele County and the high school building.

District and high school administrators looked at the number of COVID cases in Steele County as well as the infection rate in the building to help them make their decision regarding which learning format to use. Both of those sets of data were trending in the wrong direction, and that indicated that a change was necessary. High school Principal Mr. Kory Kath said, “One of the things that is indicating for us is the fact that we had multiple staff members at OHS who have had to quarantine and we have not been able to fill those spots with substitute teachers. On top of that we saw a bunch of students, as well as parents, saying that they need to pull their students out because they do not feel safe they are safe.” There were many key data points that the school board and administrators looked at. Principal Kath said, “The key things that the school board uses are the 21 cases in our district since Nov. 5, and we went from a positivity rate of 5.1 percent, now to a positivity rate of 15 percent.”  

We want in-person learning, we want you here at school. This change, though we know it was necessary, was difficult to see happen, and I look forward to the day we get to go back.”

— Principal Kath

As of Nov.12 Steele County Public Health reported, there have been 1,066 COVID cases and five deaths in Steele County, as well as 202,000+ cases and 2,849 deaths in Minnesota.  The 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents in Steele County was 42/10,000 on Oct. 31 and 67/10,000 on Nov. 13. Steele County also saw a surge in cases over last weekend with 64 new positives in two days. OHS currently has around 100 students and staff in quarantine, and ISD 761 has experienced 367 cases and 42 staff members are currently out due to the virus.

Although virus numbers are very high, fall sports and activities will be allowed to continue until Nov. 21. However, the start of winter sports will be pushed back until a later date.

This is a difficult time for everyone. Speaking to that point Principal Kath said, “This is not what your teachers and administration went into education to do. We want in-person learning, we want you here at school. This change, though we know it was necessary, was difficult to see happen, and I look forward to the day we get to go back.” 

Despite many protocols and guidelines from the CDC, Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education, COVID-19 cases have risen too high for students to safely learn in person. Administrators will continue to evaluate the situation over the next three weeks, and a decision will be made on Dec. 3 to decide which learning format will be best to use at that time.  Over the distance learning period school nurses ask parents to continue reporting COVID like symptoms, close contacts, and COVID cases to the OHS attendance line (507-444-8805) so they can continue to track the virus. Any questions or concerns about academic support can be directed to OHS administration and counselors by email, and any technology problems can be addressed by calling the technology department at 507-444-8630. Remember to wear a mask, social distance, and stay safe over the next few weeks.