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May 25, 2022

1/21/2022 1:31:00 PM
North Branch School Board discusses COVID response, sets 2022 calendar

The North Branch School Board heard from its district superintendent January 13 that she’d been impressed with how cohesively and cooperatively everybody responded to a trying week or so in the schools.  Supt. Sara Paul had been filling in that week as high school principal.  She added that the district had just experienced as many staff members out-sick, as it ever has in a similar time period.

Fortunately, she continued, North Branch ISD 138 was one of a few Minnesota districts last fall to get in the front of the line requesting testing kits.  Not many districts saw the future need for the kits and frankly, the strings attached in monitoring use of the kits by completing a lengthy questionnaire,  was seen as a drawback. Supt. Paul explained North Branch went through the process to obtain the test kits,  and it was good that  this was the case. “Bottom line; we need people to stay home if they are sick.”

One fifth grade class was in “Level 3” last week (Level One and Two are relatively regular practices under the  school safe learning continuum.)  The precautions were due to increasing cases, adding mitigation measures like spreading desks apart, and families being encouraged to use a test kit free from the school.

Just from January 3 to 9 there were six cases amongst staff and 10 new confirmed student covid cases.

Early into the pandemic North Branch set up a “covid response team” involving public health, school staff and administrative representation and this group has proved invaluable in leadership and policy guidance.

The national recommendation has come out for a change to the isolation time period with the advent of the omicron virus variant.  Five days quarantine instead of 10 is adequate in response to omicron.

The response team reviewed this, and Supt. Paul said it had just recommended changing to the five day rather than 10-day quarantine, based on research into the new variant’s habits. North Branch has adopted this.

Also, North Branch and Chisago County Public Health feedback on reporting requirements, helped in the state revising the paperwork tied to utilization of provided testing kits.

The district also hired a part time RN in December to assist in the workload.

In other matters:  the calendar for the 2022 to 2023 school year was adopted.  

Graduation is Sunday, June 11.  Christmas Break is Dec 23 through 30.  Spring Break is March 13, 14, 15 16 and 17.

Tim MacMillan was elected Board Chair again and Sarah Grovender remains vice-chair.  There was brief discussion about an increase in the Board’s $60 per diem pay but it was left alone.  MacMillan suggested the Board can review the matter at the annual retreat.

And, Jesse Lavalla was sworn-in. He’d earlier been appointed and won his election in November.  The Board is now dealing with a vacancy from Tanya Giese’s resignation. There will be interviews January 27 with applicants for the Board to select an appointee.

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