Austin Public Schools issues mask policy for upcoming year

Published 5:48 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

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Recently, the Centers for Disease Control issued updated recommendations regarding mask wearing and the COVID-19 pandemic. In turn, Austin Public Schools has issued its most current guidelines for the upcoming school year.

In an email to parents, Dr. Joey Page listed the current guidelines the district is using as it prepares for the 2021-22 school year.

While there is no requirement by the district to wear masks indoors, it is being highly recommended.

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“Indoors, face coverings are not required but recommended, particularly for those who are not fully vaccinated, or if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease,” Page said. “I say at this time, because information and guidance from state and/or federal agencies could be modified.”

This year is different from last year because, as Page points out in the email, there is no state mandate or quarantine in place.

“Last year we were working under a number of executive orders; this year, there appears to be even more local control, but that does not make it any easier,” Page said in the email.

The situation in Minnesota has been changing as of late as cases of COVID-19 — pushed by the delta variant — have been climbing. In particular, southeast Minnesota has seen some of the biggest climbs in the state and on Thursday, the CDC reported that Mower has reached the substantial spread category.

Mower has reached 52.42 cases per 100,000 over a seven day period earlier in the week, reflecting a 40% increase. The threshold for substantial spread is 50 per 100,000.

That leads into a challenge for the district, which in some ways is playing a waiting game and anything handed down by the state might require a quick turn around.

“Presently, we have a good idea of how we are going to start and work through the year,” Page said. “However, as last year taught us, information and guidance can change quickly.”

The district is relying on consultation from the District COVID Team, which includes Mayo Healthcare System professionals, Mower County Public Health, parents and school district members.

For outdoor events, masks are not needed; however, in areas of high transmission, it would be recommended for those not vaccinated to wear masks.

That could apply directly to district sporting events, but what that means for fan attendance remains to be seen.

“We are waiting to hear from the Minnesota State High School League on any changes that need to be implemented,” Page said.

Despite the questions that are still floating about the upcoming school year, Page remains optimistic of the path ahead.

“I feel Austin Public Schools is prepared to offer the best educational experience we can,” he said. “With that comes optimism and commitment to providing a safe and supportive learning environment.”