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C-I elementary to switch to hybrid learning as Crow Wing’s cases grow

"Many people don't realize how challenging it is for our teachers to be responsible for two sets of student groups at the same time,” Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland said in a written announcement Oct. 2.

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An increase in Crow Wing County cases pushed the Crosby-Ironton School District to move students at Cuyuna Range Elementary School to a hybrid learning model beginning Oct. 19.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 6, the county’s 14-day per 10,000 case rate was about 29. According to the state’s Safe Learning Plan, schools are recommended to use a hybrid learning model for all students if the rate is 20-29. With a higher rate of 30-49, the recommendation would be hybrid for elementary students and distance learning for secondary students.

Students at Crosby-Ironton High School began the school year in a hybrid model, attending classes in person two days a week and distance learning the other three. The new elementary model will look the same. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade will be divided into two groups, with one attending in-person classes Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other going to school Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will continue to be distance learning days to allow staff to deep clean facilities.

Elementary students will not have class Oct. 12-16 to give teachers time to prepare and transition to the hybrid model. Oct. 15-16 is the annual Minnesota Education Association Convention, known as MEA, already giving students the two days off but allowing only three days for teachers to prepare for the change.

"Many people don't realize how challenging it is for our teachers to be responsible for two sets of student groups at the same time,” Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland said in a written announcement Oct. 2. “Our teachers will be providing in-person instruction to one cohort on one day, while providing learning opportunities to the other cohort of students who are distance learning at the same time. It's a real juggling act that takes several hours of planning and preparation.”


The hybrid learning model for elementary students in Crosby-Ironton will continue until further notice. The district joins the Little Falls and Pierz districts in recent decisions to change learning models due to increases in case numbers.

With Morrison County’s 14-day per 10,000 case rate estimated around 19 as of Monday, Oct. 5, Little Falls transitioned from in-person to hybrid classes for seventh through 12th grade students. They will be split into two groups, each attending classes in person on alternate days Monday-Thursday, while Fridays will be reserved for students who need to meet with teachers for extra support.

Pierz will start a similar schedule Oct. 12, with seventh through 12th grade students attending in-person classes two days a week and working from home with a synchronous distance learning schedule three days a week.

Brainerd High School is one of seven school buildings in the state identified by the Minnesota Department of Health as having five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 of students or staff who were in the building while infectious during a two-week reporting period. As of Sept. 29, a total of 21 cases had been associated with the outbreak at BHS, with the numbers reported to still be rising. High school students transitioned from hybrid to distance learning Sept. 24 and are expected to return to their previous schedules Thursday.

Buildings on the list, a recent inclusion on the health department’s coronavirus situation update webpage, may not have ongoing transmission but will continue to be listed until there are no new cases reported for 28 days. If five or more cases are reported in a school building in a subsequent two-week period, the building will once again be listed.

Congregate care facilities

After reporting the first COVID-19 case in an employee who works at the long-term care facility at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center Sept. 16, testing at the health care organization has since revealed an additional five employees with positive results. CRMC spokesperson Peggy Stebbins said the Care Center is now undergoing facility-wide testing on a weekly basis, and the most recent round of tests showed no additional positive results among the 40 residents and 93 employees. No residents have tested positive, Stebbins reported. Of the six employee cases, four no longer require isolation.


CRMC is now sharing its weekly testing results on its website, which can be viewed at https://bit.ly/36COsN6 . The Care Center continues to be listed by the health department as a congregate care facility with COVID-19 exposures, but those on the list may not have ongoing transmission. Just as with school facilities, those that have not reported a new exposure for 28 days will be removed from the list, but could be re-added if new exposures occur.

Stebbins also confirmed there have been positives among hospital employees as well, reflective of Crow Wing’s increasing confirmed positives.

“Please stay safe,” CRMC stated on its website. “Our staff and buildings are only as safe as the community we live in.”

Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in south Brainerd also continues to be listed as having exposures. The facility has remained on the list for several weeks, its second time being included. Tuesday, a spokesperson said there is currently one active case in a staff member and no active cases among residents. Of the 18 deaths reported in Crow Wing County since May, 12 were among Bethany residents.

To the south in Morrison County, four congregate care facilities are identified as having exposures: Harmony House in Pierz and Nouis Home Care in Little Falls, both of which first appeared on the list Sept. 25, and Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls and the Little Falls Care Center, which were added Friday, Oct. 2.

According to Brad Vold, Morrison County public health/social services director, there are no widespread outbreaks in these facilities. He said most are single cases here or there and are representative of the coronavirus escalating as a whole in Morrison County communities.

Closer look at numbers

Of the seven area counties — Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena — Crow Wing continues to see the steepest climb in case numbers, while Morrison isn’t too far behind. With Morrison’s recent spike to 343 cases as of Tuesday, it once again overtook Crow Wing in per capita confirmed cases, now reporting 102.74 per 10,000 residents, compared to Crow Wing’s 101.15. Morrison also recently confirmed its third COVID-19-related death. Vold said the person who died was in their 90s, and it was reported the last week of September.

In the last 14 days, nearly 200 cases were added to Crow Wing’s confirmed totals, and according to statistics provided by county officials, 149 of those remain active infections.


Yet, Crow Wing County’s testing rate per capita remains well below state average. According to the health department’s weekly summary, as of Sept. 30, Crow Wing residents were being tested at a rate of 2,419 tests per 10,000 people. The statewide average is 3,666 per 10,000. All five of the other area counties are also testing below state average, although Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties have higher test rates than Crow Wing, Cass and Aitkin.

After weeks of little movement and most new positives coming among those under 40, cases among older Crow Wing County residents are on the rise again. Of the 107 new cases recorded between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, 46 occurred in those 50 and older, or 43%. A month earlier, there were just 30 total cases reported between Aug. 28 and Sept. 4, with eight of those positives found in those over 50.

COVID-19 data as of Oct. 6

  • Aitkin — 103 (+12 since Thursday, Oct. 1), with one death.

  • Cass — 223 (+21), with four deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 658 (+77), with 18 deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 195 (+19), with three deaths.

  • Morrison — 343 (+83), with three deaths.

  • Todd — 546 (+32), with two deaths.

  • Wadena — 90 (+22).

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21 and many are out of isolation. The number of those no longer needing isolation is not reported on a county-level basis by the state.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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