In March, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. A few days later, schools across Minnesota switched to online learning very quickly.

Over the summer the Minnesota Department of Education and Minnesota Department of Health worked on coming up with a plan to open schools safely in the fall. School districts each took that plan and made it their own.

In September, nearly every school district in the Northland opened for some sort of in-person learning. Whether it was for all grades or just elementary school students, students all over Northeast Minnesota headed back to school for the first time in six months.

Now, just over two months into the school year, COVID-19 cases are on the rise all over Minnesota. From Nov. 1-20, St. Louis County saw over 3,300 new cases, Itasca County recorded over 700 new cases and Carlton County saw over 775.

These numbers have forced nearly every school district in the Northland to distance learning at all grade levels. Here are the learning models for public schools in St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Carlton and Itasca counties as of Friday, Nov. 20.

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Colt Smerz (left) and Koltin Solem dance during a brain break in Justin Chumich's first grade class during Lakewood Elementary's first day of school Monday, Sept. 21. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Colt Smerz (left) and Koltin Solem dance during a brain break in Justin Chumich's first grade class during Lakewood Elementary's first day of school Monday, Sept. 21. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

St. Louis County

Chisholm School District began its school year with in-person learning for all, but that has changed. One elementary school in the district has begun distance learning for kindergarten students at Vaughan-Steffensrud Elementary School until Jan. 4 due to the number of students and staff under quarantine. Chisholm High School has switched to hybrid learning.

Duluth Edison Charter Schools began its school year in a hybrid model for kindergarten through fifth grade but now all students have switched to distant learning until at least January. Sixth through eighth grades have been distance learning since the beginning of the school year.

Duluth Public Schools began the school year with two weeks of distance learning and then shifted the elementary school students to hybrid. The district recently switched its elementary school students to distance learning at least until Dec. 14.

East Range Academy of Technology and Science began the school year in hybrid learning where students will attend in-person learning two days a week. East Range Academy started distance learning this month and currently plans to continue doing so until Nov. 30.

Ely Public Schools announced Friday it would switch all of its students to distance learning after the Thanksgiving break. Elementary students are currently in an in-person learning model and secondary students are in hybrid. Ely schools started in-person for all students but made changes based on COVID-19 numbers in St. Louis County. Ely Public Schools has had 11 COVID-19 cases in the school community since the beginning of the school year.

Floodwood School District recently switched to distance learning at the high school level with plans to reassess this week as to what plan to move forward with after Thanksgiving. Elementary school students will continue with hybrid learning. Floodwood also canceled the rest of its volleyball season. The district started the school year with in-person for all.

Harbor City International Charter School started the school year distance learning and continues with this learning model.

Hermantown Community Schools started the school year in hybrid for all. This month the district made the decision to move its middle and high school students to distance learning for the foreseeable future. On Friday, the same decision was made for elementary school students starting after Thanksgiving break.

A masked student walks toward the entrance of Hermantown Middle-High School on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the first day of school. (File / News Tribune)
A masked student walks toward the entrance of Hermantown Middle-High School on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the first day of school. (File / News Tribune)

Hibbing Public Schools recently began a two-week COVID-19 restart by moving all its students to distance learning until at least Dec. 1 with the hope that elementary schools will be able to return to in-person learning and the high school to hybrid learning. The district started the school year with all students in full in-person learning.

Mesabi East Schools started the school year with elementary students utilizing in-person learning and high school students utilizing the hybrid model. The district announced Thursday grades seventh through 12th grades will be switching to distance learning starting Nov. 30 for two weeks and returning to hybrid Dec. 14. Mesabi East is also asking parents to drive their students to and from school if possible, to cut down on large groups of students being exposed and/or quarantining.

Mountain Iron-Buhl School District started the school year in-person but moved to distance learning for two weeks at the end of October. The district is now back to in-person learning after the two-week reset.

Nett Lake School District began the school year in-person for all and is still maintaining that model. Nett Lake has small class sizes and a new ventilation system to help support in-person classes.

North Shore Community School will begin distance learning Dec. 2. The charter school has this week scheduled off. Monday and Tuesday will be used at teacher planning days for distance learning. The district started the school year in hybrid learning.

Proctor Public Schools began distance learning Monday with no foreseeable date of returning to hybrid or in-person learning. Bay View Elementary started distance learning Nov. 3 with the hopes of returning to hybrid Nov. 17 but that was extended. Pike Lake Elementary switched to distance learning Nov. 10. The district started the school year Sept. 15 in hybrid mode for elementary students and distance learning for students sixth through 12th grade.

Rock Ridge Public Schools the district moved back to full distance learning starting Nov. 30 through Jan. 18. Rock Ridge started the school year with in-person learning for all students but switched grades 7-12 to hybrid learning on Oct. 7. Rock Ridge Public Schools is the recently combined district of Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia districts.

St. Louis County School District started in-person learning at all buildings: South Ridge School, Cherry School, Northeast Range School, North Woods School and Tower-Soudan Elementary School. All of the schools are still utilizing this learning model with grades 7-12 distance learning on Wednesdays only.

Vermilion Country School started the school year with in-person learning and remains that way. All students and staff will have temperature checks before entering vans and buses or the building. Students and staff will need to wear masks while in the building.

Two Harbors High School. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Two Harbors High School. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Lake County

Lake Superior School District started the school year with hybrid learning for all students in Two Harbors, hybrid learning for seventh through 12th grade in Silver Bay and in-person learning for kindergarten through sixth grade in Silver Bay.

Two Harbors High School started distance learning Nov. 2 and will continue at least through the holiday breaks. Minnehaha Elementary in Two Harbors started distance learning Monday and will continue through the holidays as well. William Kelley School students in Silver Bay will continue hybrid learning at the secondary level and in-person learning in the elementary level.

Cook County

Birch Grove Community School started the school year with hybrid learning for all Monday through Thursday and attended distance learning on Fridays and continues that model.

Cook County Public Schools started the school year with distance learning for all students. Kindergarten through third grade switched to hybrid learning Oct. 22 and the board was considering switching fourth and fifth grade to hybrid as well. But due to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the region Nov. 11 when the district switched to distance learning for all students

Oshki Ogimaag Charter School started the school year with in-person learning and is continuing with that model.

Carlton

Barnum Public Schools started the school year with in-person learning and was utilizing that learning model until is currently operating in distance learning for all students with the hopes of returning to in-person learning Nov. 30. The switch was due to a shortage of teachers for in-person learning.

Carlton Public Schools started the school year with in-person learning but recently announced changes to their schedule. Superintendent John Engstrom told parents the district would switch all students to distance learning beginning Nov. 30 through the end of the first semester, Jan. 22.

Cloquet Public Schools is currently at distance learning for all students and will stay that way until Carlton County’s 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents constantly hovers around 20. The current county 14-day case rate is above 100. Cloquet Public Schools started the school year with in-person learning for all.

Cromwell-Wright Public Schools started the school year with in-person learning for all students and is continuing that learning model for now.

Moose Lake Public Schools is currently operating in distance learning for all students except prekindergarten through second grades, which are in-person. Distance learning for the remaining students is scheduled to end Dec. 4. The district started the year with in-person learning for all students.

Esko Public Schools is distance learning for all students currently with plans to return to in-person learning for elementary students and hybrid for secondary school students on Dec. 7. Esko started the school year with in-person for all students.

Wrenshall Public Schools started the school year with hybrid learning for all students but has moved all students to distance learning with some in-person supports.

Fond du Lac Ojibwa School started the school year distance learning and continues to do so.

Itasca

Greenway Public Schools started the school year with in-person learning for all students. In September grades 7-12th made the move to hybrid and in October grades fifth and sixth joined them. As of Monday, all grades will be distance learning.

Deer River Public Schools started the school year with hybrid learning for all students and is currently utilizing that model.

Grand Rapids Public Schools started the school year with in-person learning for all students. At the end of September, the district moved grades sixth through 12th to hybrid learning. Grades third through fifth joined them. Starting Tuesday all grades will begin distance learning with the exception of prekindergarten, which will continue with hybrid learning.

Nashwauk-Keewatin Public Schools switched grades seventh through 12th to hybrid at the end of September after starting the school year with in-person learning for all students. On oct. 12 the rest of the remaining grades switched to hybrid. Starting Monday, all students will be in distance learning.