The Anoka-Hennepin school board voted Monday to proceed with high school and middle school sports and extracurriculars, defying state guidance that school districts shifting to remote learning should halt such activities.
The 5-1 school board vote came just days after the state's largest district announced all middle and high school students will transition from hybrid to distance learning starting Nov. 4 amid a rising spread of COVID-19 in the area; elementary schools will remain in a hybrid format. The district had also announced Friday that sports and extracurriculars would be put on hold starting Nov. 2.
The high schools in the district are Andover, Anoka, Blaine, Champlin Park and Coon Rapids.
Dozens of students and parents showed up to the Monday night meeting urging the school board to let the activities proceed, local news outlets reported.
Anoka-Hennepin district leaders followed state guidance in shifting to distance learning, noting that Anoka County had reached a level of COVID-19 transmission that triggers the online transition for middle and high school students. That guidance also states that school athletics and activities should be conducted virtually in counties that reach this level of spread.
Anoka-Hennepin spokesman Jim Skelly said the school board vote came as a surprise because it was not on the meeting agenda beforehand.
The district will follow the school board's direction, Skelly said. But he noted state agencies had communicated to Anoka-Hennepin that it needed to put activities on hold.
"We wouldn't have made an announcement of this caliber without some direct communication on this," he said.
The school board asked the district to communicate its decision to the state.
Statewide, sporting events have been associated with 3,410 known infections, or 2.5% of the total, state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Monday. The total includes 593 people involved with high school-age athletics. In the past week, there were two confirmed outbreaks associated with high school soccer and volleyball, Ehresmann added.