No change to quarantine guidelines for Bemidji Area Schools

The Bemidji School Board discussed at length the possibility of changing the district’s quarantine guidelines but no formal action on them passed the floor.

Board member Jeff Haack initially offered up a motion to change all instances of a 10 or 14-day quarantine to a 7-day, weighing the COVID risks compared to the high incidence of absenteeism within the district.

Board member Sarah Young noted if COVID cases were on the decline in the area, she’d be more willing to take the risk.

Haack amended his motion to a 10-day quarantine limit but that motion ultimately failed.

Preceding this discussion, the board heard a COVID update from Sanford Bemidji’s chief medical officer Dr. David Wilcox.

Wilcox highlighted the risks of COVID among school children, which appear to be higher with the Delta Variant.

Wilcox commended the student-athletes who were vaccinated to keep sporting events going.

Wilcox’s presentation also touched the community’s vaccination rate, which is about half of the entire population in Beltrami County, and noted the risks of the unvaccinated by showing how many unvaccinated patients were hospitalized with COVID.

As of Oct. 12 at Sanford Bemidji, 16 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19, with 14 patients unvaccinated.

Six patients were in the ICU, all unvaccinated, and one unvaccinated patient was on a ventilator.

Wilcox said some patients are staying at the hospital for long periods of time, but are not counted as current COVID hospitalizations after 14 days when the patients are no longer able to infect anyone else.

Wilcox also discussed the capacity surge hospitals in the area are facing.

During the listening session, the director of the Aurora Waasaakone Community of Learners charter school proposed the K-8 charter could lease the recently closed Central Elementary School through 2024. No formal discussion on the matter was taken during the meeting.

Superintendent Tim Lutz gave a final update to the board on the referendum scheduled for Nov. 2. Early voting at the Bemidji District Office has begun. The district is proposing replacing the existing $160 per pupil levy, which is set to expire in four years, with a $460 per pupil levy, which would expire in ten years.

Lutz says a common misconception in the public is the district’s financial situation being a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

The school district has a $70 million budget, with the state funding 60 percent, but underfunded mandates including transportation, special education, and foodservice, as well as state funding barely keeping up with inflation, continue to add to the district’s budget woes.

Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!

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