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COVID-19 Q&A for Families and Staff

In Orono Public Schools, the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff are our top priorities.

The Orono Schools COVID-19 Response Team has heard the concerns of families and staff and has been closely monitoring information and following guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There is currently no recommendation to close schools in Minnesota.

The following Q&A will help you understand the action steps we will be taking as a community. Information and recommendations will be updated as additional detail becomes available.

For additional questions about COVID-19, please call the Minnesota Department of Health hotline: 651-201-5414


Watch for updates! Email communication to families:


Question 1: Potential School Closure: Who decides whether school will close? 

Update: Orono Schools and the Activities Center will be closed  on Monday, March 15 and Tuesday, March 16, 2020. By order of the governor, all schools are closed from March 18-27 (Orono’s spring break is March 23-27). We will update families regarding the decision to resume traditional instruction or implement distance learning/elearning beginning March 30. This decision will be directed by the governor and Minnesota Department of Education. 

Answer 1:
Orono Public Schools (and all Minnesota public school districts) will be directed to close by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which is working in partnership with the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If the MDH determines that our district will close, Orono Schools will send notifications to staff and families via email, voicemail, social media and local news outlets. 

ACTION ITEM: Please review and update your family’s ParentVUE profile to ensure we have the most current telephone numbers and email addresses for parents/guardians. Click here for instructions on updating your ParentVUE profile. If you are not receiving email messages from the district office, please contact communications@orono.k12.mn.us


Question 2:
Absences: Who is monitoring absences in our district?

Answer 2:
Monitoring absenteeism is always a high priority. District administration will continue to carefully monitor student absences and illnesses, and report large increases in absenteeism, particularly if absences appear due to respiratory illnesses.

ACTION ITEM: We ask families to report illness symptoms when they phone the attendance line so we can review absentee patterns and best track the health of the school and community. The CDC recommends that if you or a family member gets sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing:

  • Seek medical care. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room.

  • Tell your doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms.

  • Avoid contact with others.

(If a student will be absent for an extended period of time, families should report longer absences to their child’s school office staff, as usual.)


Question 3:
Travel: Should students be traveling during this time? Who is monitoring returning travelers in our community?

Answer 3:
Update 3/13/2020: All school-sponsored student travel and field trips are canceled now through 3/29/2020

Orono Public Schools is following travel guidelines developed by the CDC. The district has also received clear direction that travelers returning to Minnesota from areas of community spread will be monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health. Exclusion and self-isolation will be based on recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health and/or a physician. Orono Schools will cooperate with directives from the MDH should a member of our community become infected with COVID-19.


Question 4:
Disease Prevention: How do we limit the spread of infectious disease?

Answer 4:
Students and staff have been practicing techniques for proper hand washing and preventative strategies for flu and other common illnesses. The same guidelines apply to COVID-19. Please continue to follow these healthy habits:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. For more guidance, see the CDC: “When and How to Wash Your Hands.” If you cannot wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol content.

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough into the inside of the elbow. Dispose of tissues immediately. Wash hands after.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces.

  • Children, staff and volunteers should stay at home when sick and for at least 24 hours after fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine) or after vomiting or diarrhea. Children who come to school ill or with a fever will be sent home.

  • Sick students will be kept separate from well students until they can leave the building.


Question 5:
Is the district implementing additional cleaning measures through facilities and custodial staff?

Answer 5:
Yes. In addition to the routine cleaning and disinfection that occurs every day in each building, the facilities and custodial staff members are focusing extra attention on frequently touched surfaces including door knobs, tables, countertops and drinking fountains. They have also installed hand-sanitizer dispensers in high-traffic areas. The district also plans to extensively clean every building over spring break, March 23-27.


Question 6:
Continuity of Learning Plan: How will children engage in high-quality learning if the schools are closed?

Answer 6:
Orono Schools is continuing to review the districtwide eLearning plan in the event of long-term school closure. The teaching and learning staff at Orono Schools are highly trained in using technology as a learning tool to deliver content, set academic milestones and expectations, and collaborate with each other. In the event of a long-term closure, the district would require the full partnership of students, parents, teachers and staff to provide meaningful instruction that meets state guidelines for the continuity of learning.

How Orono Schools Families Can Prepare for the Possibility of eLearning During a School Closure

    • Become familiar with the district website, including the Continuity of Learning Plan and the Technology & Media webpage.

    • Grades K-2: Determine whether you have a device at home that your child can use. If you do not have a device and/or an Internet connection at home, please contact Technology Coordinator Alexander Townsend immediately. The eLearning platform for students in grades K-2 will be Seesaw for Schools. Families should practice logging in to Seesaw from home and become familiar with the platform. Classroom teachers will email further instructions to their families, including the use of other cloud-based academic applications relevant to learning.

    • Grades 3-5: Determine whether you have a device at home that your child can use. If you do not have a device and/or an Internet connection at home, please contact Technology Coordinator Alexander Townsend immediately. The eLearning platforms for students in grades 3-5 will be Schoology. Families should practice logging in to Schoology from home and become familiar with the platform. Classroom teachers will email further instructions to their families, including the use of other cloud-based academic applications relevant to learning.

    • Grades 6-12: Beginning today, all students should carry their device to and from school each day in case the Minnesota Department of Health directs Orono Schools to close before the next school day begins. The eLearning platform for grades 6-12 will be Schoology. Families should practice logging in to Schoology from home and become familiar with the platform to help monitor academic progress. 

    • Attendance: Attendance will be monitored during an extended eLearning period. Students’ login access to Schoology will indicate “attendance” in the instructional setting established by the District. Completion of assignments may also be used as an indication of attendance. Other means of checking “attendance” for younger students will be communicated to parents via Seesaw, and they will require parent partnership. Individual teachers will be responsible for assessing student progress

    • Watch for updates through these reliable communication channels: district website, district School Messenger broadcast emails, district social media, MDH and CDC.


    Helpful resources:
    How to Talk to Children About COVID-19 (NASP)

    Links to trustworthy State and National Agencies:

    Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
    CDC Information for Travelers 
    U.S. State Department Travel Advisories (choose Travel Advisories)
    Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)
    Preparing for Coronavirus at Home 

    Minnesota Department of Health hotline: 651-201-5414
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