Anoka-Hennepin board bucks state guidelines, votes to continue extracurriculars

Athletes in the Anoka-Hennepin School District made their voice heard Monday night as the board voted to continue extracurricular activities against state guidance.

In contrast with state guidelines, the Anoka Hennepin School Board voted 5-1 to allow students to continue with in-person extracurricular activities, including sports, while their middle and high school students transition to full online learning. 

The decision to move to online learning came after the 14-day average volume of cases in Anoka County reached more than 30 cases per 10,000 people. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, at that case rate, the state recommends high school and middle school students participate in online learning only.

Anoka Hennepin is moving forward with that recommendation, but voted Tuesday not to cancel sports. The vote came after dozens of students and parents showed up to the meeting, asking board members to let students continue participating in extracurricular activities.

“All the kids that showed up definitely I think made a difference because if we weren’t here they wouldn’t see how badly we wanted this,” Blaine High School student and member of the dance team, Kendall Isaacson, said.

The decision from the school board could change if infection rates start to increase. As part of the vote to keep activities, board members voted to clarify which metrics they will use in the future to determine if activities should continue.

“It seems like the board overall is very open to hearing alternative ways to measure the data and not necessarily relying on the county rates,” parent of an Andover High School student, Kristi Weikle said.

During the state's COVID-19 update Monday, Department of Health officials said 3,410 cases have been linked to sports, leading to more than 7,000 households isolating. 

Even though the virus isn't as dangerous for young people, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says, when kids get sick, community spread increases, and the virus more easily reaches the vulnerable. 

Right now, there are 45 counties in Minnesota that have infection rates at a level higher than what the state recommends to allow high school sports.