New rules implemented as OHS returns to in-person learning


After just over a year in hybrid and distance learning models, OHS returned to school four days per week.

Jonny Clubb, Writer

Owatonna High School returned to an in-person learning model four days per week beginning on March 30. With the increased number of people in the building came some new rules. These rules ranged from new distancing guidelines to new rules on eating and drinking in the school building. Many teachers and students are excited to see more faces and have more interactions on a day to day basis. However, there still is apprehension about COVID-19. The current rules and guidelines create the safest possible environment for students and staff.

One of the biggest changes was moving distancing guidelines from six feet of space between students down to three feet of space between students. Principal Mr. Kory Kath said, “The movement from six feet to three feet within a classroom was necessary. Otherwise, there’s no way we could have doubled the number of students in a classroom.”  OHS has a variety of classroom and class sizes, so depending on each of those variables teachers decide how to space out students in the safest way possible.

Another new rule is that eating and drinking are no longer allowed in classrooms, and food is supposed to be eaten only in the lower commons. This rule was created to promote mask wearing at all times, and while the rule may be effective it has drawn the ire of some students. Sophomore Teagun Ahrens said, “I don’t really have a problem with it. I get if you want us to pull our mask down and as soon as the drink is in our mouth put it back up, but it’s a little strict.” The rule is also somewhat difficult to enforce. Options teacher Ms. Sara Baird said, “Mainly the eating and drinking rule has been hard to enforce.” This rule is especially challenging in the morning when students are eating breakfast.

One issue that has been raised is why students are outside maskless before school, as compared to in the building with masks on. There are many reasons for this decision. Mr. Kath said, “When students are outside our hope, and our expectation is that they would want to be six feet away from somebody else. And we also know transmission outdoors is less than indoors. Also, I don’t have staff available until 7:55, to monitor and supervise students, as well as have breakfast ready and things like that.”

Two relaxations of guidelines include a shortened quarantine and the removal of the requirement to disinfect surfaces every hour. When students are sent home for a close contact, the health office offers them a form for a shortened quarantine that hinges on multiple factors including showing no COVID-19 symptoms and proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The relaxation on cleaning desks comes from the CDC because studies have shown that COVID-19 spreads mainly through the air and not on surfaces.

Among many factors that allowed students to return four days per week were the state of Minnesota’s infection rate being below five percent and local infection being low as well. To stay in-person many factors need to be considered, especially social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. Mr. Kath said, “We do need to stay vigilant. Making sure that students are mask wearing and being careful about who they are within six feet of at lunch. That’s going to prove to be more safe and keep us in this mode, rather than having to take a step backwards.” 

Currently, administrators are looking at how much of the student body is infected with COVID-19 or showing symptoms of COVID-19 compared to in the past looking at how many students were in quarantine. As long as less than  five percent of OHS students are infected with or showing symptoms of COVID-19, the in-person learning model is here to stay.