HUDSON -- The Hudson School District is sticking with its current COVID-19 school closure matrix, choosing not to implement new options that would have considered the middle school separately from the high school or put more focus on district cases over St. Croix County’s overall situation.
The matrix currently has seventh, eighth and 10-12th grade in a hybrid model, with the remaining grades still full face-to-face instruction. The matrix is based on the percentage of staff and student positive test-related absences and the 14-day positive count per 10,000 county residents.
Currently, there are five active cases of COVID-19 at the high school, two at the middle school and 10 at the elementary schools.
The matrix can be reviewed by the board and changed at a later time if desired.
“We’ve said this would have to be a fluid situation,” Superintendent Nick Ouellette said.
Four other matrixes were presented to the board at its Monday, Oct. 12, meeting.
The first changed the staff and student piece to a cumulative count. That matrix would currently put grades 10-12 in complete virtual, Houlton Elementary in hybrid and the rest of the schools and grades at their current instruction model.
The second changed the staff and student piece to a cumulative count and placed grades 7-8 with 4K through ninth grade. This matrix would allow the middle school to return to face-to-face instruction.
The third changed how county numbers were ranked, putting more emphasis on the school numbers than the county numbers. That matrix would still have all district schools at its current levels, with the addition of Houlton Elementary school going to hybrid.
The fourth is the same metrics as the third, but also moves grades 7-8 to the 4K through ninth grade considerations.
Ouellette recommended the final model, especially with the change of having all middle school grades considered the same.
Board member Heather Logelin said the district does not know the extent of asymptomatic students contributing to community spread. With the numbers rising in the county, she said it does not seem like the time to de-emphasize the county’s cases. Board member Rob Brown agreed.
“We simply don’t know what we don’t know, and that puts our staff and our teachers at risk,” he said.
Board member Bruce Hanson said he’d like to see seventh and eighth grade considered with the other lower grades, but otherwise keep the matrix as is.
Board President Jamie Johnson said the decision on what instruction model to implement should be based on what’s happening in a building, not the county. It is not fair to seventh and eighth graders to be hybrid with the current case number at the middle school, he said.
A motion to change seventh and eighth grade’s grouping on the existing matrix failed 3-4.
The district has had a total of 47 cases since the start of school this year. The high school had 25 cases with 178 close contacts, the middle school had five cases with 60 close contacts and the six elementary schools had 17 cases with 104 close contacts.
Ouellette said they have seen some people resistant to give out their close contacts because they don’t want to make their friends quarantine. Some students have been named close contacts more than once, and therefore had to quarantine and attend classes virtually more than once.
“Concern is -- as we continue to move forward especially into winter months -- are we going to be able to get people to cooperate with us?” Ouellette said.