Positive COVID-19 case identified in Thief River Falls School District

THIEF RIVER FALLS – Thief River Falls School Public Schools sent a letter to parents this week that the Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed a case of COVID-19 in its schools.

The school said in the letter that it worked with the department to identify people, including several teachers, who were in close contact with the person who tested positive and have communicated with him or her individually. The teachers who were in close contact with the individual will quarantine for 14 days and work from home, said the letter signed by Donita Stepan, Thief River Falls Public Schools superintendent.

The quarantine of the teachers does not mean they are sick, but that, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, they were in contact with someone who was, Stepan noted.

“Your child’s risk of exposure is no greater than the risk of contracting the virus in the general community,” her letter to parents said.

The situation has resulted in a need to change the start of the 2020-2021 school year, which is slated to begin Sept. 8, Stepan’s letter said.


The open house was changed to 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 3. During those hours, students were able to pick up their iPads and drop off their school supplies in their classrooms. However, they were not able to meet their teachers, but will see them on Zoom Sept. 8-9. On those two days, students will have a licensed teacher in the classroom, but will receive classroom instructions from their teachers, via Zoom.

The letter concludes by saying: "We understand that this may create unease in our community. We have taken action to clean and sanitize the facility and are working closely with MDH to monitor the situation.”

In an email to the Herald, Stepan said that when the school district receives a phone call about possible exposure to COVID-19, the district determines whether the person was tested, whether he or she was a close contact, whether symptoms have been identified and whether there are any other close contacts.

“All of those things matter in our decision-making process and every situation is different and takes time to analyze," Stepan said. “We are grateful for our partnership with public health who has been an incredible support to help us make decisions.”

Thief River Falls Public Schools is not alone in grappling with making decisions concerning positive tests for coronavirus.

In a letter posted on the Thompson Public School website on Thursday, Sept. 3, John Maus, Thompson School superintendent, said: I write today to continue to be as transparent as possible with our current and ever-changing COVID-19 status but know I also have a duty to respect the confidentiality of any medical information for our staff and students.

"We had more positive test results today in grades 7-12. Through contact tracing, we have already had discussions with parents and are continuing to investigate. If you have not heard from us, your child has not been identified as a close contact at this point," the letter said.

Earlier this week, a class in the Thompson elementary school was quarantined after a student tested positive for COVID-19.


Thompson Public School families will be notified before the Labor Day holiday weekend if the hybrid model needs to be adjusted for the week of Sept. 8, Maus said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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