As COVID cases rise, more schools close

Shakopee students will not be back in the classroom until after Thanksgiving, following climbing COVID-19 cases. School officials said the district reached a record number of COVID cases in November.

"I thought it was great because the kids have been nervous about the pandemic and the increasing cases. It’s great to have them home for a couple more days," Sarah Nelson, Shakopee parent, said.

COVID cases in kids are climbing, forcing the Shakopee School District and parents to switch gears.

"I really think the kids should be in school," April Bengston, another Shakopee parent, said.

At the start of November, the Shakopee School District reached a record number of COVID cases and the trend continued for two weeks. To slow the spread, the district is starting Thanksgiving break early with no classes on Monday or Tuesday.

Parents will have access to emergency childcare and a meal pick-up.

"It feels a little like one thing after the other and we just kind of take what comes our way and we do the absolute best we can," Mike Redmond, Shakopee Schools superintendent, said.

COVID cases are half the battle. Redmond said the district is also battling staffing and supply shortages. "We have unfilled positions every day and we’ve got people moving from point a to point c, d and f to sub during the day and back again and filling in for each other," he said.

The school is weighing two additional options that involve possibly switching to a four-day school week to take pressure off staff or possibly extending winter break to get case counts under control.

"I do worry about their education and it’s a lot easier to stay focused in class than it is at home," Bengston said.

Some parents feel hybrid learning is safer.

"I think that they should do a hybrid model to reduce the number of people in the buildings at once. Put a little less pressure on teachers to make sure class sizes stay manageable," Nelson said.

School officials call it a fluid situation, but explain the best way to respond to rising COVID cases is quick. "We’re trying to be proactive and hopefully stem the tide a little bit and give us the best chance of having our kids in our building as much as possible," Redmond said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS learned this is not just the case in Shakopee.

In West St. Paul, St. Joseph’s Catholic School K-5 students were not in school Thursday or Friday because of the number of positive COVID cases.

In Prior Lake, Westwood Elementary School shifted to virtual learning last week and won’t be back in person until Nov. 29.

Also, Osseo Area Schools will expand their winter break by 3 days in response to COVID. The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. As such, there are a few important updates to share with you this week. Winter break will now include Dec. 20, 21, and 22, which will extend the break to a full two weeks. School will resume on Monday, Jan. 3 as planned.