Updated: September 21, 2021 08:50 AM
Created: September 20, 2021 09:26 PM
Eric Rice is a parent of three: a daughter in day care who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and two boys in elementary school.
So far this year, his sons have only been able to attend class in person twice due to their school district's COVID-19 quarantine rules.
Their seven-day quarantine begins after their sister's 10-day quarantine ends.
"It's frustrating that my children had two days of school in September, had to quarantine, and they are not able to go back until October until the earliest," Rice shared.
Reports of COVID-19 cases have grown rapidly in schools from about 150 cases a day the first week of September to now several hundred per day.
"Last week, every single day we were seeing between 400-600 cases reported each day, and today as we are looking at the reports coming in, we expect that we may have over 600 reports coming in," said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director with the Minnesota Department of Health.
Across Minnesota, 26 schools are reporting five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students or staff.
Schools from Chisholm to Albert Lea have mandated masks and been forced back into distance learning due to outbreaks.
"We are concerned about what we're seeing in schools, we're concerned about the high number of cases," Ehresmann said.
Some school districts have quarantine contingency plans in place. In the St. Michael-Albertville School District, for example, there are teachers available after the school day to help those students quarantining at home.
But Rice says his children's district, 197, covering Mendota Heights, West St. Paul and Eagan, does not have one.
"I have concerns about my children's well-being. They are anxious and stressed and they are not getting the resources and support they need from the school," Rice said.
Rice is hopeful his school district will make a change.
"I would ask the district to either have options to lower the quarantine period if no symptoms or no positive testing or, if requiring a 17-day quarantine, have a plan in place to make sure the children can still get instruction and engagement during that period — 17 days is a long time to go without schooling," Rice said.
District 197 provided the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:
We definitely understand that a quarantine period can be frustrating and difficult for families. But we are doing our best to stop the spread of COVID by following the guidance of the MDH. We have support for student learning in place for students who are in quarantine, but we always welcome feedback for how that support can be improved. While the support varies by grade level and school site, it generally includes check-ins with school staff and online learning activities.
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