Pine City High School is starting the school year off a week later than usual – and with distance learning – after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Pine City Elementary School, ALC and Vision school started in person learning on Tuesday Sept. 8 as previously planned.

On Friday, Sept. 4, Pine City Schools Superintendent Curt Tryggestad released a statement explaining that they had been informed that day of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff member of the Pine City High School.

“We have worked with the Minnesota Department of Health to identify those who had close contact with the case, and have communicated with them individually.” Tryggestad said. “At this time the staff member will need to stay home and any staff who have been in close contact with them have been notified that they must also stay home for 14 days.” 

Tryggestad said that Pine City High School will be delaying the first day of school to Monday, Sept. 14, and at that point will starting using a distance learning model. He said that staff, students, and families will be notified when Pine City High School is able to change from a distance learning model.

Tryggestad also said that more information on distance learning will be coming from Pine City High School Principal Troy Anderson. 

“This is a challenging time and I know many of you may be feeling stress or anxiety,” Tryggestad said. “We will get through this together as a community, and will be stronger when we emerge.”

Three models for learning

Since July, Pine City schools and other schools in Minnesota have been preparing for three different contingencies: in-class teaching, distance learning or a “hybrid” combination of both.

• In-person learning for all students with extracurriculars, including sports. Social distancing would be encouraged but not strictly enforced. 

• A “hybrid” model of in-person learning, but with strict social distancing (six feet between people at all times) and capacity limits. Schools would limit the overall number of people in school facilities and on transportation vehicles to 50% maximum occupancy. 

•Distance learning only, though schools may be open to provide emergency child care or other functions.

In August, the Pine City School Board voted to start the school year with in-person learning for all district schools: Pine City High School, Pine City Elementary School, ALC and Vision.

At that time, however, Tryggestad noted that the plan could change – as it has – in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the community and/or in the schools.

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