A growing number of schools in southeast Minnesota have made the decision to move to distance learning amid increasing rates of COVID-19.

The number of cases in Olmsted County has been rising. As of Monday, the rolling seven-day average of new cases per day was 123.7.

The largest school district in the area, Rochester Public Schools, announced its move to distance learning on Thursday.

"This is not ideal and not really what we wanted to do," Superintendent Michael Muñoz said Friday. "But, in reality, it's the safest decision that we need to make based on our county data." All students will be in distance learning until Jan. 8, although that date could change.

Even before making the decision for the whole district, Muñoz said officials already had to move two schools to distance learning. He said there was a third that almost had to move to distance learning as well. He would not specify which schools they were.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The Minnesota Department of Health provides a weekly update of school buildings that have five or more cases of COVID-19 in them. As of Friday, area schools included on that list were the Dover-Eyota Middle School, Hayfield Secondary, and Zumbrota-Mazeppa Senior High.

The area schools that recently announced changes to their learning models include:

Byron Public Schools announced Thursday that it would move to distance learning. The district is planning for a return to school Dec. 14.

Lourdes High School announced Thursday it would be canceling its classes and extracurricular activities until further notice.

Pacelli Catholic Schools in Austin announced Thursday it would move all grades to distance learning after finding two more active cases of COVID-19, for a total of five active cases in its system. It will stay in distance learning from Nov. 13-27.

Fillmore Central Public Schools announced it would move students in PreK-12 to distance learning from Nov. 16-Dec. 4.

Winona Area Public Schools announced Thursday that it would move all grades to distance learning from Nov. 17-Jan. 4, 2021.