HUDSON -- Hudson High School’s grades 10-12 will go to fully virtual instruction, starting Monday, Nov. 23 and lasting through winter break. Grades 6-9 will go to hybrid, while elementary will remain in face-to-face learning.

All middle and high schools will have Monday, Nov. 23, and Tuesday, Nov. 24 off, in addition to the holidays the rest of the week, giving teachers time to prepare for the transition to hybrid and virtual.

The School Board made the decision at a special meeting Monday night, ahead of its two-week assessment schedule. The board was set to make the next decision on Nov. 25, but a rise in cases prompted earlier action.

“As we’ve been watching how things are going, I don’t think it’s any surprise that the number of cases in the county have risen and the number of cases in some of our buildings have risen,” Superintendent Nick Ouellette told the board.

Decisions on instruction models are made a building-by-building basis.

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The high school has hit 21 new cases in a week's span from Nov. 11 through Nov. 18, the number set by the school’s matrix to start virtual.

The middle school has had nine new cases in that time, prompting the move to hybrid. Based on how the rates are increasing, Ouellette said it is possible the middle school and ninth grade will also hit the threshold to go virtual soon.

The elementary schools have seen a total of eight new cases in the six buildings.

“The elementaries are actually in really good shape,” Ouellette said.

Athletics and activities will continue for all grades.

Staff under pressure

High school staff will teach virtual lessons from the high school itself, as the district has worked to address child care concerns for staff, Ouellette said.

The board also approved increasing the Wednesday early release from two hours to three, and making Dec. 23 a staff prep day with no students.

This year has been a huge challenge for staff, Ouellette said, and the district is looking for ways to support them. Chief Human Resources Officer Andrea Voelker said they are at a breaking point.

“They are doing their best, they are putting on a brave face and they are teaching our kids, and they are rocking it, but it’s taking a toll,” she said.

Ouellette emphasized the change in the instruction models doesn’t mean the district’s case numbers will start going down. Most cases in the district have been acquired outside of school.

For those questioning why the district is making the decision, Board member Heather Logelin said that one reason is the numbers are rising to a level where the district can’t be confident even the mitigation strategies in place will keep kids and staff safe.

“It’s a tough question,” Ouellette said.

With the numbers moving so quickly, more and more kids and people in the building in general are being impacted, Ouellette said. The district has to find the balance between providing opportunities for kids and protecting staff. Other districts in the area have already made the move to virtual, such as New Richmond, but those calls were due to staffing issues. Hudson has been able to keep staffing sufficient so far, Ouellette said, but positive cases and potential close contacts have affected more than 275 staff members.

“It’s only a matter of time before we get to a point where we can’t staff our buildings,” he said.

Now is a chance to take a step back.

“At this point it’s a matter of trying to hit a reset, trying to get our bearings underneath us,” he said.

The district will decide whether to move back to lower models on Dec. 23.