Schools hit hard by COVID and flu, now back in session

The hallways at Tracy Area Elementary School were quiet last week, when the District’s Rapid Response Team made the call to shift to distance learning for both public schools last Thursday until this past Monday. Photo / Per Peterson

By Per Peterson

As if on the second part of Christmas break, the halls of Tracy Area Public Schools fell quiet last Thursday. But this was no holiday, as another round of distance learning went into effect.

Because of a sharp rise in absences — either because of the pandemic, or influenza — the school district’s Rapid Response Team last week made the decision to shift to distance learning for last Thursday and Friday and this past Monday. As of last Wednesday, roughly 20% of students were out with some kind of malady — about 18% at the elementary school and 21% at the high school.

Also, a number of paraprofessionals and other staff were out last week.

“The decision was made solely on the fact that we were seeing the numbers of people gone sickness-wise just — boom, boom, boom — it kept increasing,” Tracy Area Elementary School Principal Michael Munson said last Thursday. “It was increasing at an alarming rate.”

School was back in session Tuesday, but whether or not this will be the last go-around with remote learning is anyone’s guess.

The district’s Rapid Response Team met last Wednesday with Ann Orren of Southwest Health and Human Services, who has been working with school districts since 2020. The committee also includes teacher and school board representatives.

“We just talked about what’s going on in southwest Minnesota — is this going to peak and come back down, how can we stop this?” Munson said. “You’re talking over 130 kids out with sickness, that’s a lot. (Orren) kind of brought up the idea of distancing them out and have them at home for a certain length of time,” Munson said. “We talked about the number of days, and she recommended five days, because that’s the new quarantine window.”

Munson said a lot of tests have been administered to determine whether people are out with COVID-19 or the flu. The shorter quarantine window, he said, has helped some, but the frustration level for all staff is still prevalent.

“You think you’re over a certain strain, then you get a new strain … I hope this doesn’t become something that keeps continuing,” said Munson.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.