By Randy Bergquist, Osakis Public Schools superintendent

You might have heard me say or write that safety and security is my number one priority for students, staff, and community members here at Osakis Public School. One of the major concerns in our state, country, and the world is the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Administration, teachers, and staff will be monitoring this issue very closely as we continue through the school year. We have been in communication with the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This communication has included webinars and weekly updates involving individuals from these organizations. Here are a few items we have learned regarding the COVID-19 at this time:

  • The situation surrounding the outbreak is rapidly evolving and the information or recommendations are changing as new information becomes available.

  • At this time, the risk of becoming sick with COVID-19 is low, including for people in Minnesota schools.

  • We are in the cold and flu season. COVID-19 symptoms are similar to these more common infections so it is far more likely that anyone in Minnesota with respiratory symptoms is suffering from a cold or flu.

  • MDH recommends that people stay home when sick, cover their cough (cough into the crook of your elbow or upper sleeve, not your hands), and practice good hygiene. These recommendations are especially important during the cold and flu season.

  • MDH is not recommending that events or extracurricular activities be canceled.

  • MDH staff will contact individuals who came to Minnesota after travel to China. MDH will determine if those individuals will have some restrictions on their movement for a period of 14 days from the time they left the area. This could include being asked to stay home from work, school, and other settings.

  • Schools do not need to assess anyone who recently traveled or make determinations about who should be allowed to come or work or school. This is the responsibility of MDH.

  • MDH has encouraged schools to support students and staff who may be asked by public health officials to stay home for 14 days by allowing for leniency in absenteeism from classes and extracurricular activities.

Education is a key component of helping people understand information related to any illness or sickness. As a school we suggest these common sense strategies for preventing the spread of illness and sickness.

  • Practice social distancing when ill. Try to avoid being too close to others.

  • Keep children and employees home who exhibit cold and flu-like symptoms.

  • Encourage all students to keep unwashed hands out of their mouth and eyes.

  • Encourage all to use anti-bacterial soap.

  • Teachers will review hand-washing techniques with students.

  • Discourage the sharing of food and beverages.

  • The school will continue to use maintenance and cleaning of high-touch surfaces as well as all classrooms.

Much of this information has been provided by the following. Please know Osakis Public School will continue to monitor this situation and keep safety and security as our number one priority.

MDH https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

MDE https://education.mn.gov/MDE/index.html

CDC https://www.cdc.gov/

Osakis Voices is rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.