SAUK RAPIDS -- Staff in the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district has been allotted 11 COVID-19 vaccinations in this first week of the state's pilot program.

Superintendent Brad Bergstrom says they are using three criteria for prioritizing the staff including age, those unable to socially distance, and employees who have underlying health conditions.

We took a look at some of our employee groups and started with those that meet that criteria and then we start working our way down and we have established a prioritization schedule, so the first 11 and then the next 11, and we reach out to them and ask if they are interested.

Bergstrom says employees are not required to get the shot, and if they decline the district will not be given that information, they'll only know how many shots are still available from the initial allotment.

He says at this pace it would take about 15 months to inoculate the entire Sauk Rapids-Rice staff, so he is hopeful more vaccines will become available and the process starts to speed up.

For the first time in weeks, some students have returned to the school buildings in the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district. Pre-K through 5th-grade students have returned to in-person learning as of Tuesday. Grades 6 through 12 are now in a hybrid model.

It was great I was out yesterday in some buildings and it was so nice to see kids back.

Bergstrom says grades 6 and 9 go to all in-person learning on February 1st and the rest of the grades on February 2nd. He says the school board chose the phased-in approach to allow the students and staff time to get used to all being back together at one time.

Everybody will have a deeper understanding of what things are going to look like because it will be the first time we'll have 1,400 kids for example at the high school, the first time they'll all be together in the building, since March of 2020.

Distance learning for families who want to continue to learn from home will continue for all grades through the remainder of the school year.

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