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Students in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District will switch to distance learning starting Wednesday and running through Dec. 3 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in its schools and communities in the south metro.

The move affecting about 7,500 students in kindergarten through grade 12 in the district covering parts of Dakota and Scott counties comes after the neighboring Shakopee School District canceled classes this week due to outbreaks there.

"We're making this decision in consultation with health experts in the Minnesota Department of Health, as well as in Dakota and Scott counties," the district said in a letter posted on its website. "We're ready for this, and I believe that taking this action will make a positive difference for our students, families and our staff."

District officials said high case counts and high transmission levels in the community, especially among children ages 5 to 19, led to the decision. Rising cases in district schools and evidence of transmission in buildings also played a role in the decision, the letter said.

Students will learn remotely Wednesday, then be off for the Thanksgiving holiday break Thursday and Friday. Classes will be held virtually Nov. 30-Dec. 3; in-person learning is set to resume Dec. 6.

"By taking this action now, we get a 12-day break from potential in-school transmission while being in distance learning for just 6 days," the letter said.

Adult Basic Education morning and afternoon classes will switch to virtual learning, but evening classes will continue to be in person.Early Childhood Family Education will switch to virtual learning, the district said.

Youth and adult enrichment classes offered through Community Education will continue in person using current health and safety plans.Decisions about activities and athletics will be made case by case, the district said.

Dakota County has seen a 17.1% increase in COVID-19 cases over the past week, and hospitalizations were up 15% during the same seven-day period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The positivity rate was 12.38%.

In Scott County, which includes the city of Savage, COVID-19 cases were up 29% in the past seven days. The positivity rate was 15.77%, the CDC said.

The high transmission rate led the health protection agency to say everybody in both Dakota and Scott counties should wear a mask in indoor public settings.