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Safe Return to School Plan 2021-22

Orono Schools Health & Safety Guidelines for COVID-19

Updated January 20, 2022

The health and safety of students and staff is our top priority in Orono Schools. Our fundamental goal for the 2021-22 school year is in-person learning five days per week for all children and to keep our learning environment healthy. This goal will require flexibility and partnership with both students and families through implementing layered COVID-19 illness prevention strategies. 

Students and staff who are sick or showing any signs of infectious illness should not attend school in-person.

The following guidelines will be in place as our school year begins. They will be modified, as needed, based on the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in our learning community and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and any other state or federal agencies.

COVID-19 FAQs button

Screening for Illness at Home

Screening for Illness at Home

Key message: Students and staff who are sick should not attend school in-person.  Complete a daily at-home, self-screening of you and your child(ren). Screening will be done for students who appear ill when arriving for in-person learning each day, but not all students, as to avoid congregation and congestion. It is important to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that can be found here. Everyone should stay home and isolate themselves if they are sick. Please familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Similar to any year, sick children will be referred to the health office and sent home.

NEW! Isolation and Quarantine Guidelines

Isolation and Quarantine Guidelines

Please review the isolation and quarantine guidance–including sample calendars and helpful instructions for families. These details are in compliance with CDC guidance established in December 2021. If you have any questions, please contact your school nurse or health clerk.

Isolation and Quarantine Guidance

COVID-19 Dashboard and Response Team Meeting Summaries

Visit the Orono Schools COVID-19 Dashboard for the latest decision-making metrics (updated weekly on Friday).

COVID-19 Response Team

Consulting with the District COVID-19 Response Team

The District COVID-19 Response Team–comprised of School Board members, district administration, health staff, COVID coordinators, and teacher leaders–examines data and provides recommendations on mitigation strategies. The team consults with MDH epidemiologists for guidance when needed. 

The team is committed to re-evaluating guidelines and adapting mitigation strategies to match health metrics. The Response Team will meet the second week after school begins to review and revise plans as needed and make recommendations to the Superintendent. The next meeting is set for September 24, 2021. Administrators and COVID coordinators will continue to examine all internal health metrics on a daily basis and update the public COVID Dashboard each week.

Assessing and Handling Illness at School

Assessing and Handling Illness at School

The district consults with the Minnesota Department of Health to help determine protocol and next steps related to monitoring, isolating illness and notification of close contacts.

Experiencing symptoms

All members of the school community must be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms of illness and protect others by staying home when feeling ill and following COVID-19 specific exclusion and isolation guidance when appropriate. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and are strongly recommended to get tested. Find a testing site near you by visiting MDH website.

MDH continues to refine symptoms of COVID-19. The following is the most updated guidance regarding symptoms:

More common: fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; new cough or a cough that gets worse; difficulty/hard time breathing; new loss of taste or smell

Less common: sore throat; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; chills; muscle pain; extreme fatigue/feeling very tired; new severe/very bad headache; new nasal congestion/stuffy or runny nose

To ensure the health and safety of other children, families, and staff, in accordance with the state and federal agencies and the CDC, children who are sick are asked to stay home. Staff and children should also notify school officials if they (staff) or their child (families) become sick with COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed or suspected case. Guidance from CDC and MDH will be followed for both ill students and staff, as well as individuals exposed to COVID-19. If a student or staff member develops any symptoms of illness consistent with coronavirus while onsite, the following procedures will be followed:

Parents and/or emergency contacts will be called and asked to pick-up their child immediately.

The ill student or staff will be immediately isolated in a separate room while they wait to be picked up or until they are able to leave the facility on their own. The school nurse and other health clerks should use Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions when caring for sick people. After the ill student or staff member leaves the facility, staff will disinfect areas where the staff or student was present.

Positive COVID-19 Test Result or Close Contact Notification

Positive COVID-19 Test Result or Close Contact Notification

If you are participating in any Orono Schools program, including Community Education or extra curricular activities, and receive a positive COVID test result, notify the health office of the school that your child attends, your program coordinator, and/or your coach (when applicable). 

You may also be notified that your child is a close contact in a classroom, on a team, etc. 

In both instances, please follow the isolation and quarantine guidance

Facial Coverings

Facial Coverings

Key messages: Orono Schools will implement a universal facial covering requirement beginning the first day of school on Wednesday, September 8, 2021.  Per the federal order from the CDC, all staff and students riding in district-provided transportation vehicles and buses are also required to wear a mask.

The rise of local virus transmission, health and safety priorities, and the district’s fundamental desire to begin the year in-person and remain in person has prompted a change in district requirements as we return to school. Per a decision by the Orono School Board on Thursday, September 2, a requirement for universal masking has been approved effective Wednesday, September 8.

This decision follows careful review of the following key metrics, recommendations and considerations as our learning community approaches the start of school. Please see the COVID-19 Dashboard for the following:

  • Hennepin County COVID-19 case rates
  • Western Hennepin County regional case rates
  • University of Minnesota School of Public Health “School Opening Statistics and Projections” (a reliable predictor the district has used for 18 months)
  • Additional building-by-building data will be added once school begins.
  • The Orono Schools COVID-19 Response Team will review key metrics again on Friday, September 24, 2021.

Indoor Mask Requirements

  Early Childhood-
Grade 8
Grades 9-12
Indoors during these building hours 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Classrooms and passing time YES YES
Physical education specials/classes NO NO
Outdoor learning activities NO NO
Breakfast & lunch (while eating) NO NO
Daily recess NO
MSHSL Activities NO
  • Exceptions will be made for students, staff or visitors who cannot tolerate a facial covering due to medical, developmental or behavioral health conditions (doctor’s note required).
  • Wearing masks inside the school building outside of these hours is still strongly recommended, as well as during large outdoor gatherings where social distancing is not attainable.

Recommended mask specifications

  • Types of allowable face coverings include:
    • Paper or disposable mask
    • Double-thickness cloth face mask
    • Religious face covering
  • KN95 disposable face coverings are available to staff and students in the buildings

The covering should cover the nose and mouth completely, should not be overly tight or restrictive, and should feel comfortable to wear.

  • Facial coverings can be removed when individuals are eating, drinking and when engaged in outdoor activities
  • Facial coverings should not be placed on anyone under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance, or anyone who cannot tolerate a face covering due to a developmental, medical, or behavioral health condition.  
  • Masks will be available in offices for any students or staff who do not have masks.
  • Staff who provide direct support to students will be recommended to wear additional Personal Protective Equipment, such as face shields, gloves, surgical-grade masks, and/or gowns. (Please see staff MDH PPE recommendations.)

Mask Exemptions

The district will follow ADA guidelines for medical masking exemptions.

Exceptions can be made for the following categories of people:

  • A person who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.). Discuss the possibility of reasonable accommodation with workers who are unable to wear or have difficulty wearing certain types of masks because of a disability.
  • A person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations.
Hand Hygiene and Healthy Practices

Hand Hygiene and Healthy Practices

Key messageEncourage your child to wash hands frequently and avoid coughing into their hands.

Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette will be reinforced by staff to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Throughout the school day, children will be encouraged to wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap isn’t readily available.

Washing hands and respiratory etiquette are critical components to public health. All adults and students are required to wash hands or use sanitizer upon arrival and often during the day by the following methods (sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the building):

  • Hand Hygiene and respiratory etiquette will be taught and reinforced by staff.
  • Staff and students will follow proper handwashing procedures.
    • Soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used if soap and water are not readily available. Hand sanitizers are located at every entrance and provided throughout the buildings.
  • Hand washing should take place at the following times:
    • Upon staff and student arrival and departure
    • Before and after preparing or eating food or drinks
    • After using the toilet or helping a child use the bathroom
    • Before and after transitioning to a new space
Social Distancing to Minimize Exposure in School

Social Distancing to Minimize Exposure in School

Key message: Social distancing (also called physical distancing) means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. Social distancing is a critical tool in decreasing the spread of COVID-19. All persons in the building and on district transportation must do their best to provide as much space as possible between themselves and other people. Classroom seating across the campus will be 3 feet apart.

Signage is posted in all district buildings promoting health and safety.

Curbside student pick up and drop off will be available. Should parents need to pick up their child prior to school dismissal, the parent should call the office when arriving to notify the school they are present and staff will bring the student to and from the entrance or vehicle.

Cohorting: Recess groups will be cohorted, lunchrooms will be set up with social distancing at 6 feet between classroom cohorts and/or K-8 students will eat in classrooms when there are periods of high transmission according to CDC. K-5 classrooms are already cohorted, with middle level students also already scheduled into cohorts that reduce potential close contacts in case of high transmission.

Non-essential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups at the same time will be limited during periods of high transmission.

Locker rooms: Time in locker rooms will be limited during periods of elevated transmission.

COVID-19 Testing

COVID-19 Testing

Key messages: The district encourages regular testing for COVID-19 to help prevent symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission. The MDH COVID-19 Testing Recommendations chart provides clear guidance.

Unvaccinated students and school staff should get tested for COVID-19 at least weekly throughout the school year. This recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and MDH is based on current levels of community spread across Minnesota. Unvaccinated children involved in any extracurricular activities or sports should be tested more frequently.

Vaccinated students and school staff should get tested if they are experiencing symptoms or were exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Testing should be used in addition to other prevention strategies.

Find a testing site near you by visiting the MDH website.

Order four tests for your family, at no charge, through this website:

Vaccine Resources

The Minnesota Department of Health has asked all school districts to provide information on vaccine availability. Please visit the Vaccine Resources webpage

COVID-19 vaccines are not required to attend school in person, but are strongly recommended by the CDC and MDH for eligible students age 5 and above. Please consult your personal physician to discuss vaccination for yourself or your child(ren). 

Cleaning, Disinfection, Ventilation and Water Systems

Cleaning, Disinfection, Ventilation and Water Systems

Cleaning and Disinfection

We are continuing to follow the Orono School District and CDC guidelines of cleaning and disinfection of our learning spaces throughout the summer.

We use an EPA-approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2. All antimicrobial products (sterilizers, disinfectants, and sanitizers) that claim to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate a pest or the growth of unwanted organisms are pesticides and are required to be registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). See the definition of a pesticide, according to Minnesota Statute 18B.01 (


The district is committed to providing reliable and safe heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and has implemented enhanced protocols in response to the pandemic. Our strategic partners from IEA and Wold Architects and Engineers have provided guidance and assurance that the District’s systems are operating in a manner that will protect students, staff and visitors to our buildings. The district constantly monitors those systems to ensure they are performing to meet the current ASHRAE and CDC guidelines, providing the healthiest environment for everyone.

What type of HVAC System does Orono Schools have?

Orono Schools K-12 buildings use an air-handler-based system. Supply air is heated or cooled in a dedicated air handling unit and pushed to the classrooms and other spaces in the building. Air is also exhausted out of the classrooms and returned to the unit, mixed with outdoor air, and then filtering.

Orono High School and Schumann Elementary have ultraviolet supply duct systems installed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. These systems have been updated with new bulbs and are operated while the ventilation systems are operating in the facilities.

The district also has dedicated to updating ventilation control systems, upgraded ventilation systems and priorities ongoing maintenance for all facilities historically.  The current systems are operated, per ASHRAE, CDC and MDH guidelines, on an extended schedule to allow for pre- and post-occupancy flushing of the facilities.

How much outside air is brought into the classrooms?

The classrooms in Schumann Elementary, Orono Intermediate and Orono High School are designed to provide 100% outside air. Orono Middle School uses a mixture of fresh, outside air and returned air from the building. The air is refreshed every 10 minutes resulting in air exchanges occurring 5-6 times an hour. The district uses MERV 11 filters in all buildings. This filter type is the industry standard for school districts and is the optimal filtration rating for the design and proper operation of our ventilation systems. Filters with higher MERV ratings would restrict airflow, decrease filtration, and increase the time to complete the air exchange cycle in the building. All air is filtered each time it returns to the central handler.

Should the district provide air purifiers to classrooms and other spaces?

Air purifiers process only a small portion of total air in the room. The ability of our ventilation systems to complete a total air exchange 5-6 times an hour is unmatched by any portable filtration unit. It is standard practice in Orono Schools to provide portable, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA)  air purifier systems in higher-risk areas such as small health offices and illness-isolation rooms. HEPA units that do not impact the noise levels and have sufficient air exchange for the square footage are provided. This targeted use of air purifiers in health/nurse’s offices and illness-isolation rooms is recommended by the MDH, CDC and IEA.  

Water systems and water bottles

We follow all state guidelines to ensure water systems and features are safe to use after the prolonged shut-down, to include sanitizing. Students are encouraged to bring their own water bottles and re-fill at the bottle-filling stations throughout our school buildings. 

Communication and Contacts

Communication and Contacts

COVID-19 Coordination: District Nurse Janet Franzen, PHN, and Director of Human Resources, Dr. Scott Alger, Ph.D.

The district is committed to communicating with families from school buildings and the district office. We will again use the Orono Schools COVID-19 dashboard to share the latest case rates. 

State and federal guidance may change. We encourage families to regularly check the MDH COVID-19 webpage.

Orono Schools Contacts

Please notify your child’s school health office in the case of a positive test in your child or your home (please see contacts, below). Orono Schools will continue contact tracing and notification will help keep our learning community healthy.

Orono Schumann Elementary Health Office
Anne Thillman
Phone: (952) 449-8487
Fax: (952) 449-8499

Intermediate School Health Office
Jennifer Fossen
Phone: (952) 449-8473
Fax: (952) 449-8479

Orono Middle School Health Office
Rebecca Maille, RN
Phone: (952) 449-8461
Fax: (952) 449-8453

Orono High School Health Office
Ann Turner
Phone: (952) 449-8417
Fax: (952) 449-8449

If you have questions about COVID-19 mitigation protocols in Orono Schools, please contact:

Janet Franzen, District and Licensed School Nurse, PHN
Corinna Graner, Director of Special Services
Tiffany Clifton, Director of Community Education
Dr. Scott Alger, Director of Human Resources
Lyssa Campbell, Director of Communications
Ross Luken, Coordinator of Facilities and Safety