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Rock Ridge Public Schools moves to distance learning

Rock Ridge is the recently combined district of Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert schools.

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All Rock Ridge Public Schools students will be distance learning starting Monday.

This announcement Wednesday came just two days after announcing secondary students would switch to distance learning and elementary students would switch to hybrid. According to a letter to families from Superintendent Noel Schmidt, the most recent change is due to the increasing number of staff and students who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Rock Ridge is the recently combined district of Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert schools.

As of Thursday, only seven students and two staff members had tested positive. As of Tuesday, that number has grown to eight staff members and 13 students.

Schmidt said nearly one in 11 students are in quarantine and unable to attend school in person, and 30 staff members are in quarantine.

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"This is disappointing because, as far as we know, the vast majority of COVID-19 cases continue to come from outside the school," Schmidt said in the letter to families. "In general, individuals are getting COVID-19 from public birthday parties, family gatherings, meetings with individuals from out-of-town, athletic gatherings and similar engagements where people are not wearing masks and practicing social distancing."

Rock Ridge started the school year with in-person learning for all but switched grades 7-12 to hybrid learning Oct. 7. Schmidt told families there is no foreseeable date for switching students back to a less restrictive model.

"We may be distance learning for months if the community COVID-19 rates do not stop rising," Schmidt said. "If they continue to rise, it will cause even more infections. This is the reality of our current situation."

Schmidt is asking parents and students to wear masks and observe social distancing when in public or with other parents or students to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Adelle Whitefoot covers K-12 education in northeast Minnesota for the Duluth News Tribune. She has been covering education in Minnesota since 2014.
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