This week began with the Minnesota State High School League reversing course and deciding to play prep football and volleyball seasons this fall instead of the spring as previously planned.

It ended, on the other side of the Red River, with schools in northeast North Dakota facing their first major wave of cancellations and quarantines since high school sports started this fall.

In a week where the state of North Dakota hit record numbers in active coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, three schools have been sent into distance learning and other athletic teams are in quarantine.

New Rockford-Sheyenne shut down in-person learning this week due to multiple positive coronavirus tests. Both the football and volleyball teams are in 14-day quarantines, according to the school's Facebook page.

The North Border School District, which includes high schools in both Walhalla and Pembina, went into distance learning this week. The volleyball team is in quarantine and the football team has canceled its next two games.

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They're hardly the only ones facing cancellations and quarantines.

The Devils Lake volleyball team, Langdon Area volleyball team, Nelson County volleyball team, Carrington volleyball team, and Nelson County football team are among sports squads in northeast North Dakota that are currently in quarantine or are on a break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The cancellations, quarantines and the in-person school closures aren't unique to the northeast part of the state, either.

Fargo Shanley football and volleyball, Hankinson football, Valley City football, Williston football, Kindred football and Hazen football teams also have been affected this fall.

The outbreaks are leaving school administrators to wrestle with the desire to keep communities safe, to provide athletic and other extra-curricular activities to students and to keep students available to be in person for learning.

"It's a balancing act right now," Devils Lake superintendent Matt Bakke said. "We want to have kids in academics first and foremost. That's why we're here. That's the most important thing.

"But we also understand that athletics and activities play an important role as to what we provide to students as a school district. Those are important. Those are often a driver to succeed in the classroom. It also helps with social, emotional and mental health. There's a lot of data that proves how crucial activities are to mental health of students. We want to balance both of those. We want to keep students and staff safe and healthy, doing the best we can to provide academics, athletics and building access. We're following all of the rules and restrictions to provide an environment that's safe for our students."

Part of the balancing act is that extra-curricular activities -- everything from choir to volleyball -- increase the number of close contacts for students, and one positive test can trigger a mass quarantine.

At North Border, one student was determined to have 42 close contacts.

"I think the general public thinks we have a ton of cases, but we don't," North Border superintendent Brian Wolf said. "Depending on how many close contacts a kid has between Phy Ed, music, sports. . . it can explode the number (of kids that need to quarantine)."

Dakota Prairie athletic director Chad Berger said he's on the phone with other athletic directors daily trying to navigate the pandemic and the wave of cancellations.

"You have no idea what to expect," Berger said. "You deal with the next 10 minutes in front of you."

The cancellations have been slowly rising in football, but a vast majority of games are still being played as schedule.

Two weeks ago, 100 percent of football games were played as scheduled. Last week, 95 percent were played. This week, it's expected to be at 91 percent, according to the North Dakota High School Activities Association.

"I think the schools have been using an abundance -- an over abundance -- of caution doing everything they can to prevent spread," NDHSAA director Matt Fetsch said. "In a majority of situations, they're working directly with the local health unit to help do that. I feel pretty confident our K-12 education system has been maybe as cautious as any entity in the state when it comes to preventative measures."