FARGO — Saying the district is in a “good spot” in its response to the coronavirus, Fargo Public Schools' pandemic decision-making committee voted unanimously to hold its final meeting Tuesday, April 13, and won’t meet again unless necessary.
Only one staff member and 16 students tested positive for COVID-19 last week, but masks and other mitigation measures currently in place will continue until the end of the school year. The COVID-19 Instructional Plan Committee won’t meet to adjust the dials of in-person, remote or hybrid instruction again unless positive cases rise dramatically.
Cass County was reporting 409 active cases on Tuesday — much lower than the county's peak of over 1,700 active cases in November. The county’s 14-day rolling average positivity rate was 7.4%, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
"I don't think we need to move to a lesser mitigation level. I think we're in a really good spot to keep these kids in schools for the next two months," said Mackenzie McCormick, the district's safety and emergency management coordinator.
All district staff will have had the chance to receive the full vaccine by Friday. “The full effect of the vaccinations should be in place. We are extremely optimistic and glad that our staff are protected,” Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said.
The district now plans to turn its attention to promoting vaccinations for secondary students, and vaccinations for younger students, ages 12 to 15, could be available by May or June, said Tracie Newman, who sits on the committee and the school board.
“I think one of the things we could consider is to really advertise with our 16 and 17 year olds to really get them vaccinated,” said North High Principal Andy Dahlen.
“We do want to continue pushing as soon as the vaccine is available. Encourage through coaches and activity leaders as well, because that’s where the district has seen more positive cases. There is no stronger piece of information than what Brenton (Nesemeier) shared today, once you’re vaccinated there is no need to quarantine,” Gandhi said.
Nesemeier, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health who is focused on Cass County, said elderly people across the state are close to herd immunity, and that the greatest number of positive cases are currently in ages 20 to 29.
At the end of the meeting Gandhi thanked the board, which included teachers and staff, parents, principals and an epidemiologist, for their service over the better part of the past year.
“You stepped into a very difficult role, but at the end of the day I don’t think there is any better group of individuals to make decisions regarding COVID-19 mitigation strategies and our instructional plan than teachers, principals, epidemiologists and everyone working together,” Gandhi said.
The Moorhead Area Public Schools Incident Command Team is still monitoring COVID-19 data and meets as needed, said Brenda Richman, district spokeswoman.
In the West Fargo School District, the Return to Learn Advisory Committee continues to meet, and its next meeting is set for Thursday, April 22, according to Heather Leas, district spokeswoman.