Underwood High School grades 7-12 will be moving from hybrid learning to distance learning effective immediately according to a notice sent to families from Underwood School District superintendent Dave Kuehn. Fall activities have also been suspended until Nov. 25, including weight room, football and volleyball. Students in grades 7-12 had Friday, Nov. 13 off as teachers plan to begin distance learning on Monday, Nov. 16.

Students in grades pre-K through 6 attended school on Friday as normal and will continue with their current in-person learning model, although elementary after school activities are suspended until Nov. 25.

“Due to a significant increase in positive confirmed COVID-19 cases in our 7-12 student grade levels, as well as a significant increase in the number of students and staff that are currently being quarantined or are at home with symptoms, Underwood High School will be changing their Learning Model for students in Grades 7-12 from Hybrid Learning to Distance Learning, starting Monday, November 16th.”

Students will remain in distance learning through Wednesday, Nov. 25, at which point Underwood School District’s Local Incident Command Team will decide which learning model will be used after Thanksgiving Break.

At the start of the school year, all students were in-person everyday. The model switched to in-person for elementary and hybrid for high school on Oct. 9, with students in grades 7-9 attending in person on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and students in grades 10-12 attending in person on Tuesday and Thursday.

“Our district is making decisions on our learning model based on recommendations from our Underwood School Incident Command Team and the Regional Support/Safety Team -- a state organized team in place to assist school districts in our region,” said Kuehn. “The Regional Support/Safety Team is made up of experts from the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota Department of Health and our local Otter Tail County Health Department. Our decision on what learning model best serves our school district is a local decision, but this decision is made with support and guidance from our regional and state experts.”

Otter Tail County’s 14-day COVID-19 case rate per 10,000 reached 66.22 on Thursday, an increase of 30.6% over the week prior. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that schools adopt distance learning when 14-day case rates per 10,000 reach above 50 or more, though local school districts have chosen to use the county number in conjunction with community numbers and, Kuehn says, “most importantly, data specific to the prevalence of COVID-19 in our school.”

Underwood School District will, “continue to monitor, review and evaluate our situation, including timely communication with our district families each week (or daily if necessary) with any updates and/or changes to our Learning Model,” the notice to parents said. “We maintain a strong belief that in-person learning is a high priority and is the most beneficial model for meeting our students academic and social-emotional needs, but not at the expense of ensuring a safe and healthy learning environment for our students and our staff.”

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