With COVID-19 cases steadily climbing in the region, forcing school districts to change learning models, area superintendents are pleading with community members to do their part to help stop the spread of the virus.

In a letter dated Thursday, Oct. 8, superintendents from Region Five and neighboring Aitkin and Hubbard counties made the following appeal:

“We’re writing to you today to ask for your help.

“We are four weeks into the year and already schools in our seven-county region have had to adjust their learning models from either in-person to hybrid or hybrid to distance learning due to sharp increases in positive COVID-19 cases. This is disappointing for everyone involved.

“We have been given requirements from the Minnesota Department of Health that we are following, and it is working. Across the state, there has been minimal transmission within schools. However, officials at MDH have said the COVID-19 virus is, for the most part, spreading outside of school — transmission is happening in community settings and at family and social gatherings.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“We want our kids in school as much as possible. You, the great people in our communities, have said you also want our kids in school. We know of only one way that gives us the best chance at safely keeping our kids in school, sports, and activities.

“We need your help. This information is nothing you haven’t already heard, but bears repeating as it’s going to take all of us to make a difference. Please — help us keep cases low and our kids in school by following the very clear guidelines offered by MDH.”

RELATED: COVID-19 cases prompt changes at Brainerd, Pierz schools; Pequot confirms positive cases

Those guidelines include avoiding crowds, keeping family and social gatherings outdoors, staying 6 feet apart from one another, wearing a mask, washing hands and staying home when sick.

“Do it for our kids,” the letter concluded.

Aitkin Superintendent Dan Stifter said by phone Friday, Oct. 9, area school leaders have weekly Zoom meetings hosted by Sourcewell to discuss what’s happening in their communities. Last week he said superintendents felt they were all seeing a similar trend with rising case numbers and wanted to reach out to the community for help.

“We thought it would be good for school districts to show a unified message,” Stifter said. “... We’re doing what we can, and we need everybody to continue to do the same.”

The letter was signed by superintendents from Aitkin, Bertha-Hewitt, Brainerd, Browerville, Crosby-Ironton, the Freshwater Education District, Little Falls, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Menahga, Nevis, Northland Community Schools, Park Rapids, Pequot Lakes, Pierz, Pillager, Pine River-Backus, Royalton, Sebeka, Swanville, Upsala, Verndale, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Wadena-Deer Creek.