COVID Numbers Continue to Shift


Tyger Albano, Staff Writer

Ever since the conversion from online hybrid to five days in-person class, WFPS had seen steady COVID-19 rates. However, as of recently, the numbers showed brief fluctuations. On April 5th, Cass county saw an 8.02% positivity rate and in North Dakota, 4.47%. But most recent reports show 6.87% positivity in the county, and 4.73% in the state.

There are many different possibilities of change if these numbers continue to raise. However, the numbers are not as extreme as when they were during heavier quarantine. Heather Leas, Public Relations Coordinator and School Safety Coordinator for West Fargo High School, says that if the numbers stay at a medium rate, there will not be much change at WFHS. “While it is true that WFPS saw an increase in positive cases and quarantines in the month of March, the numbers were nowhere near what we had experienced in November when we were still in a hybrid learning model. Back in November, we were averaging 500 students absent each day due to a COVID-related reason.” Leas said. “During our recent spike in mid- to late-March, our average was only 100 students absent each day for COVID-related reasons. While that was a jump from what we had been seeing in late-January and February, we are still in a very good place when compared to before the holiday season.”

Many questions have arisen as these rates started to go higher. One of them being whether or not hybrid model or maybe even full online was a possible if these numbers rose. However as of right now, Leas does not think this could happen. “When we distributed the message to our stakeholders in March about the increase, we were seeing in COVID numbers, the purpose was to remind our community that COVID is still a real concern and that we need to continue to be vigilant to ensure we don’t get back to November levels now. As long as we all continue to practice those key mitigation strategies of mask-wearing and physical distancing, and as long as our numbers stay around that 100 markers, the likelihood of the entire district going back to a hybrid model of instruction is very slim.”

Elementary schools in the WFPS district were the first group of schools to enter five days in person school. On March 26, WFPS sent a blackboard message informing stakeholders that the district had to “quarantine seven lunch pods of students” and “close a kindergarten classroom.” Rachael Agre, elementary assistant superintendent for WFPS, says that there will be little change for elementary schools if numbers stay how, they are due to their safety protocols. “The elementary buildings in WF opened back to a five-day week in the month of November. Looking back, this was at the height of the pandemic data in the county and the state.” When the elementary schools went back full time November 30th, WFPS reported Cass County rates had a 13.07% positivity rate, and the state of North Dakota had a 12.28%. “We have loosened up a few things since then with better data but truly not much. Mainly we have allowed students the option to remove their masks when outside for recess, which is less than 15 minutes. We have had very clear safety measures in place that we have found to be effective and have kept in place.”

Overall Cass county had seen a large increase of COVID-19 rates. However, it is not enough for a permanent change in the WFPS schedule.