MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds of students in Albert Lea Area Schools are in quarantine after three dozen people tested positive for COVID-19 in the first five days of the school year.

Superintendent Dr. Mike Funk made the announcement Thursday, saying 290 students have been exposed after 36 students were confirmed to have COVID-19. He says the district had “minimal procedures in place” to mitigate the spread, including the voluntary use of masks for students and staff.

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“Our first week of school has been significantly disrupted from the large virus spread within our community,” Funk said.

List Of Minnesota School District Mask Policies

He says it wasn’t until early October of 2020 that the district reached this level of positive cases. As a result of the outbreak, Funk says all students in grades 6-12 must be masked throughout the entire school day beginning on Aug. 30, and going through at least mid-October.

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Students in kindergarten through fifth grade only need to be masked while riding on school transportation. Players of indoor sports must be masked when “not actively participating,” but spectators must be masked at all times. Outdoor sports players and spectators do not have to wear them.

Funk says teachers and staff members are encouraged to “lead by example, and mask up for their students.”

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Minnesota health officials say the state continues to be at a high risk level for the spread of COVID-19, in particular the more contagious Delta variant. More than 71% of Minnesotans 16 or older have received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Thursday, while almost 93% of residents 65 or older have received at least one shot.