Seventeen students and one staff member within the East Grand Forks School District are quarantined or isolated at home as of Monday, Sept. 14. Of those, three people are confirmed to have COVID-19. The rest are confirmed to have come into close contact with someone who has the virus.
East Grand Forks Schools Superintendent Mike Kolness declined to say whether those cases are concentrated in a single grade level or class.
For at least the time being, the district will continue to use its existing learning model: all elementary-aged students will attend in-person classes, and all middle and high school students will attend in-person classes on alternating days to keep their buildings at 50% capacity.
In Monday night's regular East Grand Forks School Board meeting, Kolness reported that the district is continuously monitoring the situation and working to make the school year easier and safer for everyone involved.
"In all reality, we're going to have to be able to adjust," Kolness said. "I would be very surprised if we stay in the model we're in all year."
Despite the 18 people quarantined or isolated, leaders of East Grand Forks schools of all age levels resoundingly said the first week of school was a success.
"They are wearing their masks," East Grand Forks Senior High School Principal Brian Loer said. "They're wearing their masks all the time, they're wearing their masks appropriately all the time, and they have appropriate masks and nobody's pressing the issue. So it's been very good and I'm pleasantly surprised in that area."
"I didn't expect it to be bad," New Heights Elementary School Principal Julie Pederson said. "But I just didn't think it would be this positive."
In other news, the USDA announced Saturday that all students will eat school breakfast and lunch for free through Dec. 31, regardless of whether they qualify for free or reduced meals under normal circumstances. Kolness urged parents to still fill out free or reduced lunch applications since the policy could be reversed on short notice, and because the district relies on compensatory income based on the number of applications.