Mask mandate reimplemented for Albert Lea secondary students

Published 4:33 pm Thursday, August 26, 2021

With 290 students currently quarantined because of exposure to COVID-19 and 36 people testing positive for the virus after the first five days of school, Albert Lea Area Schools on Thursday announced changes in its masking policy for sixth through 12th grades. 

In a letter to the district Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Mike Funk said it was his goal as the school year started to educate students in a safe and healthy environment that minimized disruption from COVID-19. Masks were recommended, but not required, and daily screenings and thermal scans were conducted. 

“Unfortunately, our first week of school has been significantly disrupted from the large virus spread within our community,” Funk said, noting that the district did not reach its current threshold of positive cases until October last year. 

Because of the rise in cases, all secondary students starting Monday will be required to wear a mask during the school day through the end of the first quarter, with the exception of removing the masks for lunch. He said the decision will be revisited in mid-October. 

Since students will be masked, they will not be subject to quarantine unless they have symptoms or have been exposed while eating lunch. Students currently quarantined at the secondary level from an in-school exposure with no symptoms and who are not awaiting test results can return to school on Monday.

The mask changes will also affect the activities in the district. 

He said students participating in volleyball and swimming will be masked while not actively participating, and fans for indoor sports will also be required to wear masks.

Fans and students participating in outdoor sports will not be required to mask. 

Individuals who attend indoor concerts will be required to mask.

He encouraged families to talk with their medical provider and consider vaccination of students ages 12 and over. Vaccinated students with no symptoms are not subject to quarantine. 

 

Elementary students

Funk said the elementary schools are not seeing the same level of activity, so elementary students will still not be required to mask, except on the bus. 

The following other guidelines were issued: 

“If a positive case is identified in school, students who are considered a close contact to a classmate will be sent home with their entire class.  

“All close contacts will stay home 24 hours, while their  classroom is disinfected. They will receive assignments from the teachers during this period.

  • Students who test positive will be quarantined out of school for 10 days.
  • If the close contacts have no symptoms, and are not awaiting test results, parents can choose to send them back to school with a mask. The masked close contacts will be cohorted with their classmates in their classroom.  
  • Specialist teachers from art and music will push in, and kids will eat lunch in their room.  
  • Students will remain masked and segregated for the duration of the quarantine period.  

Parents may choose to keep their students at home during the quarantine period. Students who quarantine at home will receive homework from their teachers for the duration of the quarantine.”

Classrooms in quarantine can return to school on Monday for in-person learning using the new procedures.

 

Staff

Funk said leadership is strongly recommending that staff who are working with masked students “lead by example, and mask up for their students.”

Masked or vaccinated staff with no symptoms are not subject to quarantine.

 

Current Albert Lea Area Schools COVID-19 cases

Sibley: 1

Lakeview: 4 

Southwest: 2

Brookside: 1

Halverson: 0

Hawthorne: 3

Albert Lea High School and Area Learning Center: 16

Total cases for 2021-22 school year: 36