Walker-Hackensack-Akeley students will join many of their lakes area peers in distance learning later this month, while Little Falls elementary kids will make the change sooner than anticipated.

A Facebook post from Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Public Schools announced the move Friday evening, Nov. 13, and attributed it to increasing COVID-19 cases in Cass and Hubbard counties, along with difficulties staffing classrooms.

Sixth through 12th graders will begin distance learning Nov. 30, while elementary students start distance learning Jan. 4. All students are projected to return to in-person classes Jan. 18.

RELATED: Staffing concerns prompt distance learning for several schools

“We understand people may likely travel to see family over the holidays, this is an effort to build in quarantine time for those traveling,” the district’s statement said.

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No activities are canceled at this time. Meals will be available for all distance learning students, as well as emergency child care for children of critical workers.

“We understand this decision will affect all families differently. We also understand that this is our chance to avoid an outbreak of COVID in our schools and allow us to be open after the New Year. By working together and focusing on the wellbeing of our students, staff, and community we can get through this pandemic,” according the district’s statement.

School leaders will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation daily and work with regional and state public health and educational officials.

“However, it is our school community that we need to rely on to help keep our schools open,” the statement read. “Let’s all be safe over the coming holiday season.”

Little Falls

Originally expected to return to distance learning Nov. 23, students at Lindbergh Elementary School in Little Falls will make the switch Tuesday, Nov. 17.

RELATED: Crosby-Ironton, Little Falls announce distance learning plans

The district announced Saturday, Nov. 14, “a number of positive COVID cases” at the school, impacting both students and staff. All close contacts were notified Saturday, but because of the high number of close contacts, there are no longer enough staff members to cover the elementary classrooms for in-person learning. Monday, Nov. 16, will be a transition day for staff.

This change marks the fourth learning model change this year at Little Falls Community Schools. Students began the year in person, with seventh through 12th graders transitioning to hybrid learning Oct. 5. Surging Morrison County COVID cases drove all students to distance learning Oct. 26, but they returned to the classroom Nov. 10 when clarifying guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education said schools should rely on more data than just county cases when determining a learning model.

But due to staffing changes, which most area schools have reported in recent weeks, the district announced all students would return to distance learning Nov. 23. That is still the plan for secondary students.