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Cloquet relaxes Covid policies for return to school

Cloquet school board members discussed changes to their Covid-19 policy at their Aug. 22 meeting, with superintendent Michael Cary predicting that school will start to resemble what it looked like pre-Covid. These policy changes follow new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated earlier this month.

The new CDC guidelines promote staying up to date on the Covid-19 vaccine and isolating yourself for five days if you have tested positive for Covid, and recommend that instead of quarantining if you were exposed to instead wear a high-quality mask and get tested five days after exposure.

According to the Covid plan for 2022-2023, Cloquet public schools will reflect the CDC changes in their own policy by encouraging sick staff and students to stay home from school or work. School district nurses will also share vaccine information with students and parents upon request.

Masking is now optional for students and staff in the Cloquet public school district. They have also increased air exchanges with all of their ventilation systems and keep them well-maintained.

They plan to teach and reinforce covering coughs and sneezes, and use disinfectant cleaners daily in order to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases and germs.

Staff and students in the Cloquet public schools district will have access to free at-home Covid tests provided by the Minnesota Department of Health. In addition, the schools will also provide information about other options for free Covid testing.

As for isolating, Cloquet public schools will have no required amount of time a student or staff member stays home from school or work. However, they require that students and staff stay home when they are feeling sick.

Isolation will be different for students in sports. For the first five days, a student athlete will not be allowed to attend games or practices. After these five days, the student is allowed to return if they have been symptom-free for 24 hours without the use of medication. Masking is required until Day 10, but may be removed sooner if the student has two negative Covid tests in a row.

Any cases of Covid are required to be reported to the Minnesota Department of Health. If a student or staff member tests positive for Covid, they should contact the health office at their school.

Cary said the new policy should help keep kids in school, something that was an issue again last year with Covid.

“We looked at attendance data for last year and 33 percent of our student body met the federal definition for being excessively absent,” Cary said. “A large part of that was due to the need for isolation and quarantine.”

Cary said the federal benchmark for being habitually absent is missing 10 percent or more of the school year, or 17 days in the case of Cloquet. He said in normal years, the percentage of students who were chronically absent would be closer to 10 percent.

“All the data says, essentially, that the key to being successful is regular and consistent attendance,” he said.

In other matters Monday

• A program that provides transportation to students who miss their bus, or are unable to get a ride to school, is in the process of expanding to extracurricular activities as well. Parents and guardians can call the school district and their children will be provided with a ride. The district is still working on buying more vehicles for this program before they expand to extracurricular activities, after placing an order for two vehicles that wasn’t fulfilled.

• Five people filed for the three open school board seats in November, including Jamie Graham and Sarah Plante Buhs and all three incumbents: Ted Lammi, Gary “Hawk” Huard and David Battaglia.

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