Minnesota school districts continue to close their doors

The 10 Minnesota counties with the fastest case growth are all in rural parts of the state.

Sartell Middle School. Photo by A.J. Kaufman.

In Nashville last week, Joe Biden warned of a “dark winter.”

In St. Paul this weekend, the state’s second largest paper painted doomsday scenarios and bemoaned school budgets being “hammered” by COVID-19 costs.

But it’s Greater Minnesota where COVID is rising, as the virus hits outstate families harder per capita the last few weeks than the Twin Cities. The 10 Minnesota counties with the fastest case growth are all in rural parts of the state. The Star Tribune said Sunday new cases tripled from early September to early October.

Just north of Saint Cloud is the Sartell-St. Stephen School District, one of the best in Minnesota, with over 4,000 enrollees. Over the weekend, its secondary students and parents received word that school buildings will again close their doors Nov. 5, due to the rate of new COVID-19 cases rising in Stearns County.

The tri-county area of Benton, Sherburne and Stearns — roughly 300,000 people — reported 47 cases and two deaths Sunday; both fatalities were individuals over 70.

There will be no classes Nov. 6 to give teachers more time to “transition to distance learning,” and again no school on Nov. 9 due to a scheduled “staff development day.” Students finally begin learning again on Nov. 10, though virtually.

While St. Cloud schools do not plan to make any new changes to their learning model, just two weeks ago the district with more than 10,000 students also switched to distance learning for grades 6-12; K-5 students continued in a hybrid model.

According to the St. Cloud Times, superintendents in Stearns County have a weekly call with county public health officials to talk about COVID-19, along with monitoring spread in specific districts based on zip code.

In the week ending Oct. 25, Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties added a combined 662 newly confirmed cases and 10 deaths.