Hermantown Community Schools Superintendent Wayne Whitwam sent a letter to parents Monday notifying them secondary students will switch to distance learning.

Students in grades 5-12 will switch to distance learning beginning Monday, Nov. 16. The district is currently in hybrid for all. Grades K-4 will continue in hybrid.

The 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents for St. Louis County from Oct. 25 through Nov. 7 is at 60.38, according to News Tribune calculations. This number is used to help guide schools when choosing a learning model.

If the 14-day case rate is consistently at or above 30, the Minnesota Department of Education recommends switching secondary students to distance learning. At or above 50, it recommends switching all students to distance learning.

All schools work closely with county health officials as well as the Minnesota Department of Health to get more localized numbers and to help determine which model is right for each district.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Whitwam told parents the 14-day case rate is not the only reason for the switch to distance learning.

"The rapid spike in cases, along with quarantine requirements for close contacts, has left our district with severe staff shortages. … Our ability to safely staff our classrooms is at a breaking point and is trending in the wrong direction," the letter to parents said. "Out of interest for public safety and considering our ability to provide sufficient staffing for our schools, we will enter into distance learning for the time being."

Whitwam said in the letter the district will continue to monitor county case rates and its ability to staff buildings effectively, but there is no clear idea as to when the shift back to hybrid will happen.

From Oct. 30 through Nov. 5, Hermantown had 35 more positive COVID-19 cases.

The 14-day case rates per 10,000 residents from Oct. 25 through Nov. 7 in other Northland counties are:

  • Aitkin, 90.02
  • Carlton, 91.44
  • Cook, 38.89
  • Itasca, 68.37
  • Koochiching, 28.94
  • Lake, 48.87