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Data and Research Questions

From where does Orono Schools get its COVID-19 data and research?

In addition to tracking our own school case rates, close contacts, and quarantines, Orono Schools follows guidelines and case rates from Hennepin County Public Health, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health dashboard, “Minnesota School Opening Statistics.”

These data points are updated weekly, on Fridays, and posted publicly on the Orono COVID-19 Dashboard. The dashboard includes terms and definitions as well as COVID-19 case rate trends over time. 

Does Orono Schools examine practices and outcomes in neighboring districts?

Yes. District administrators and health staff review information released through neighboring districts’ COVID-19 dashboards, website, etc. In addition, district superintendents and health staff communicate routinely on a variety of topics, including COVID-19 mitigation strategies in their districts.

Funding Questions

Do school districts receive funding for universal masking requirements?

No. The district does not receive any funding that is tied to mask-wearing decisions. Orono Schools does receive federal funds for a variety of programs, but there is no connection between these funds and masking decisions.

Please see the next FAQ, “How has the district spent COVID-19 funding?”

How has the district spent COVID-19 funding?

Over the last 19 months (extending across the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years), Orono Schools has received approximately $1.2 million to support students academically, provide supplies for health and safety, and support a variety of learning models. In Orono Schools, the  funds have been strategically allocated to cover: additional classroom teachers and paraeducators who supported the hybrid and distance learning models and who currently provide hybrid support and continuity of learning for students in quarantine; additional substitute teachers to cover increased staff absences; health staff who provide student support and COVID-19 contact tracing; supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students (gloves, masks, shields, gowns); plexiglass/signage; individual desks for students in grades K-5 (to support social distancing measures); technology hardware, software, and infrastructure needed to support all learning models; enrollment relief; as well as expansion of 2021 summer programming, credit recovery, and support for K-12 students. Orono Schools has not spent COVID-19 resources on Social-Emotional Learning curriculum.

How will my child receive educational support if they need to quarantine?

To provide continuity of learning for students in the hybrid learning model or during prolonged absence due to quarantine, families and students will work with their classroom teacher(s) to ensure students have access to the support and materials they need to be successful. The district has used federal funds to hire two, full-time Floating Hybrid Teachers (one elementary, K-5; one secondary, 6-12) to support students and families. The district is not offering a live-streamed learning model for 2021-22.

Masking Questions

Why do students and staff who are vaccinated need to wear a mask?
  • Recommendations from the CDC and MDH state that masking is an important way to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
  • According to MDH, the COVID-19 Delta is about twice as transmissible  from one person to another.
  • Masking will help protect children who cannot yet get vaccinated (currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for ages 12 and older). 
  • The district’s mitigation efforts are in place to ensure that the greatest number of students can remain in school, in-person, five days a week. In-person learning is a top priority in Orono Schools this year, second only to health and safety. 
How long will masks be required for my child?

The Orono Schools COVID-19 Response Team will continue to meet and discuss adjustments to the Safe Return to School Plan. To guide decision-making, the Team will monitor several data points shared publicly on the Orono Schools COVID-19 Dashboard, including:

  • Hennepin County case rate data (countywide and western suburban regional data)
  • COVID-19 and Influenza-like Illness (ILI) case rates in our schools
  • Operational logistics, including staffing availability
  • Future vaccine availability for children under the age of 12
  • Any updated masking guidance from public health officials

The district includes community transmission level/spread in its decision-making. Transmission rates are currently very high.

Health & Safety Clarifications

When should I test for COVID-19?

The Minnesota Department of Health has created a COVID-19 Testing Recommendations chart to help you and your family decide when/what type of COVID-19 test is appropriate. Please contact Janet.Franzen@orono.k12.mn.us or your school nurse or health clerk if you have questions. 

What are the quarantine guidelines?

Students are quarantined for COVID-19: (a) when unvaccinated and someone in their household tests positive, (b) when unvaccinated and determined to be a close contact of a positive case if either student is unmasked. These have been our procedures since school started this fall. Your child’s school nurse or health clerk will discuss quarantines if your child is identified as a close contact. Please contact Janet.Franzen@orono.k12.mn.us if you have additional questions.

Does Orono Schools have a mental health task force?

The district has two trained psychologists on the COVID Response Team. Knowing that the school year would once again begin with uncertainty and challenges related to COVID-19, the district psychologists, social workers and counselors participated in a two-day retreat in summer 2021 to review and build systems of support for mental health. Please see the September 13, 2021, School Board presentation (1:01 timestamp under New Business) discussing the district’s multi-tiered systems of support. 

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, please contact

Jessica Butcher, School Psychologist
jessica.butcher@orono.k12.mn.us
952-449-8338 ext. 8307

Dr. Julie Nelson, School Psychologist
julieann.nelson@orono.k12.mn.us
952-449-8338 ext.8489

Ericka Ronnings, School Psychologist
ericka.ronnings@orono.k12.mn.us
952-449-8338 ext. 8458

Julie Jurek, Social Worker
julianne.jurek@orono.k12.mn.us
952-449-8332

Jane Leeper, Social Worker
jane.leeper@orono.k12.mn.us
952-449-8466

Why are visitors limited at this time?

The team discussed expanding visitor access in school buildings. However, given high—and increasing—community transmission, we will continue to limit building access to essential volunteers and visitors only. It is important to note that parents may have access to their children at any time.

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