Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases related to the Delta variant nationwide, Faribault County’s two school districts will be starting the year without any mandates.
From the beginning of July, there have been 53 new cases reported to put the total at 1,596 since the start of the pandemic.
Mandy Fletcher, superintendent at Blue Earth Area (BEA), and United South Central (USC) Superintendent Keith Fleming say that wearing masks will not be required for anyone but are recommended and optional.
Education Minnesota, the union for more than 70,000 educators in the state, says it should be up to local school officials on whether teachers must be vaccinated.
Fletcher says when vaccines first became available the district made sure that 100 percent of the district’s staff were given the opportunity to get one.
“We left it up to them to decide if they wanted it or not,” she says. “We did not make staff inform us if they received a vaccine, so I do not know at this time how many of our staff are fully vaccinated.”
Currently, BEA School District employs 200 with 40 percent of those being teachers.
Fleming says teachers are not required to get vaccinated and district officials have not discussed the matter with their union leaders.
The district employs 65 certified staff members and 85 who are non-certified, says Fleming, and they do not have to say if they’ve gotten a vaccine shot.
“I would estimate about 80 percent of both groups are vaccinated or have natural immunity,” he says.
Although masks do not have to be worn inside school buildings, under federal regulation they are required on school buses.
Infectious disease experts have found the Delta variant easily spreads among unvaccinated people and believe it is 50 percent more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19.
Because there is no vaccine for children under the age of 12, avoiding high-risk situations, social distancing and wearing a mask are considered their best protection.