ISD 518 students will return to class Wednesday with face masks required for all

The decision was made Monday afternoon to resume in-person learning on Wednesday, with required face masking as a precautionary measure.

Worthington High School
Worthington High School.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON — Face masks are back on Wednesday, but so are the students and staff of District 518, as they return to class after school was cancelled Friday, Monday and Tuesday due to a wave of COVID-19 and other illnesses.

The masking requirement also includes all activities and night-time events in all facilities, said Anne Foley, public relations and communications coordinator for District 518, in an email Monday.

The three missed days will be made up as follows:

  • Feb. 21: (Presidents Day) instructional day
  • April 18: (Spring Break Monday) instructional day; and
  • June 1: Teacher workday.

The district will continue to monitor illness levels and will reevaluate the requirement of masking in the next 10 to 14 school days.
“It is the continued goal of District 518 to keep staff and students safe and healthy,” Foley said. “We believe that in-person learning is the best method for our students to learn. To achieve this, we believe wearing a mask is the best option at this time.”

Home sick

Overall, Nobles County has seen an increase in its COVID-19 numbers, and so has District 518. As of 4 p.m. Monday, 44 students had active cases, including eight at Prairie Elementary, 11 at Worthington Middle School, 17 at Worthington High School, six at the Learning Center and two at West Building.


Staff cases of COVID had also risen to 35, with 15 from Prairie Elementary, 13 from Worthington Middle School, three each from Worthington High School and the Learning Center and one from West.

But COVID-19 isn’t the only illness prompting students and staff to stay home, and the total number of staff calling in sick has been around 50 every day, said Superintendent John Landgaard during Monday’s meeting of the District 518 Board of Education's Instructional Committee.

“We can’t operate when we don’t have adults in the building,” he pointed out.

During the morning meeting, the school’s next course of action had not yet been chosen, and the option of distance learning remained on the table, until the decision was made Monday afternoon.

“What happened last Thursday wasn’t because the school started testing (staff),” said Tom Prins, school board member.

Landgaard affirmed that it was not, because the school will not begin testing unvaccinated staff in accordance with a federal and state mandate until it is required to do so in February, should the mandate make it through the courts.

“We did pass out test kits, and there are more people testing because they didn’t feel good,” Landgaard said.

Long distance

While distance learning was considered Monday as a tactic to beat the illnesses sweeping through the schools, it wasn’t certain if the district would have enough staff to make that happen, or if the switch could be made on such short notice.


With students of younger ages, teachers usually have to produce tangible materials for students to use at home, so they might be less able to switch from in-person instruction to distance learning at short notice, said Josh Noble, WHS principal.

And students likely didn’t bring home their own materials either, as distance learning hadn’t been mentioned when school was called off on Thursday, he added.

School board members and staff also expressed concern for parents, who would also have very little notice if distance learning was required.

The decision was made Monday afternoon to resume in-person learning on Wednesday, with required face masking as a precautionary measure.

In other news Monday, the committee:

  • Heard about potential school start times of 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., which will likely be voted on during the next meeting of the full school board, which starts at 5:15 p.m. Jan. 18.
  • Talked about purchasing shot clocks, as the Minnesota State High School League has approved them starting in the 2023-2024 school year. District 518 will need one set, which will cost between $3,500 and $4,600. District 518 already has the electrical work in place, as it was done when new basketball stations were installed.
  • Discussed potential retention bonuses for current staff and hiring bonuses for open positions that are difficult to fill, such as two spots for speech pathologists.
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Phone: (507) 376-7319
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