Across Southeast Minnesota, school boards, superintendents, parents and communities are agonizing over decisions on whether to mandate masks for students, staff and visitors to their schools or to highly recommend masks while allowing parents and staff to make those decisions for themselves.

While the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020-21 school year was managed by state regulations, districts have been given guidelines from the federal government and Minnesota Department of Health for the upcoming school year, but eventually will need to set up their own rules for dealing with COVID-19.

RELATED: Pine Island School Board outlines parameters of mask mandate

Plainview-Elgin-Millville Superintendent Bill Ihrke said having local control has meant school boards have been able to fit the rules to meet the community's circumstances, but that also has meant individual district's rules might vary from their neighboring districts, and local control comes with local headaches.

It's a feeling to which other superintendents can relate.

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"When you have local control, you have local pressure and local input," said Rushford-Peterson Superintendent John Thompson.

While each district has some leeway in the rules it sets for its students, staff and visitors, there are some rules from the state and federal governments that are non-negotiable. For example, masks are required on all buses operated by or on behalf of a district. Also, any student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 must quarantine for the appropriate amount of time until the virus has cleared their system.

Among districts that recommend but do not require masks, several have also outlined a zero-tolerance policy for shaming students or staff who decide to wear a mask or not wear a mask. For districts requiring a mask, several allow a face shield as an option.

That still leaves a lot of room for local districts to make rules. Here's a look at southeast Minnesota districts outside of Rochester and where they've drawn their lines.

Austin Public Schools

Masking: Recommended but not mandated.

Comments: While the district currently is recommending masks, a change in the case rate either in Austin, Mower County or within the schools themselves could change the masking guideline to required instead of recommended.

Byron Public Schools

Masking: Recommended but not mandated.

Comments: For students grades K-5, if they are in close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 and have not worn a mask, that student will need to quarantine. For students who have been masked, they will need to continue to mask until a quarantine period passes. The district also will form a COVID Response Team that communicates several times a week with the administration.

Chatfield Public Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: The district plans to watch the active case rate both in the schools and in Fillmore and Olmsted counties and will address any changes in those rates accordingly.

Dover-Eyota Public Schools

Masking: Masks will be required for staff, students and visitors inside school buildings beginning the first day of school, Sept. 7.

Exceptions: No exceptions to the mask mandate were outlined, but the district will look at medical exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Students who refuse to mask will be sent home and marked absent.

Activities and athletics: All participants and spectators will be required to mask during sporting events and after-school activities.

Timeline: The district's COVID Advisory Council will meet every two weeks to examine the latest local COVID-19 data.

Distance-learning option: No.

Kasson-Mantorville Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: Students determined to be in close contact with a COVID-positive individual will be quarantined for a time determined by health officials in the district.

Lake City Public Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: Among elementary students, those determined to be in close contact with a COVID-positive individual will need to be symptom-free and masked to return to school.

Pine Island Public Schools

Masking: Masks will be required for staff, students and visitors inside school buildings beginning the first day of school, Aug. 30, though Oct. 19, the end of the first quarter.

Exceptions: Exceptions include medical, religious or students involved in an IEP where masks might hinder learning. Students who refuse to wear a mask will be sent home and marked absent.

Activities and Athletics: Athletes for indoor sports will not be required to mask; spectators will be required to mask.

Timeline: The district's mask policy will be reviewed at each school board meeting, and the mandate is set to end Oct. 29.

Distance-learning option: No.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville Community Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: Will follow state guidelines for close contact, which mean students in close contact will not be required but will be encouraged to quarantine.

Red Wing Public Schools

Masking: Masks will be required for staff, students and visitors inside school buildings beginning Aug. 30.

Exceptions: Exceptions include medical reasons and students with an IEP when deemed necessary by the IEP instructors. Students who refuse to mask will be sent home and marked absent. Students or staff unwilling to comply will be disciplined or sent home, and students unwilling to participate in in-person learning in compliance with the mandate will be offered distance learning.

Activities and athletics: All participants required to mask during indoor sporting events and after-school activities, except swimmers. Spectators for indoor events will not need to mask.

Timeline: The district will periodically examine the latest local COVID-19 data.

Distance-learning option: Yes.

Rushford-Peterson Public Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: The district will follow state guidelines for students who come in close contact with individuals who test positive for COVID-19, meaning they will be encouraged but not required to quarantine, although Superintendent John Thompson said the school board will address that issue and others at a special meeting Monday night.

St. Charles Public Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: Unvaccinated individuals who live with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 must complete a 14-day quarantine after isolating from the positive person.

Stewartville Public Schools

Masking: Masks will be required for students and staff beginning Sept. 7, the start of school.

Exceptions: The district will give exceptions for students or staff who cannot safely wear a mask due to medical or disability reasons.

Activities and athletics: Superintendent Belinda Selfors said the district is still considering its options with regard to activities and athletics.

Timeline: The district will review the policy Oct. 11 to determine if any modifications are needed.

Distance-learning option: No, unless an outbreak occurs.

Wabasha-Kellogg Public Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: The district follows the state Department of Health guidelines for infected individuals and those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Winona Area Public Schools

Masking: Masks will be required for everyone from 7:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. After 3:45 p.m., masks will be required only in the Key Kids Child Care program.

Exceptions: Anyone who cannot safely wear a mask due to medical or disability reasons. Children younger than 2 will not be required to mask. Students and staff who have a family member who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for 10-14 days.

Activities and athletics: The district will follow Minnesota Department of Health guidelines on recommending but not requiring masks indoors for participants and spectators.

Timeline: The district will review community case rates daily.

Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools

Masking: Strongly recommended but not mandated.

Comments: The district will follow state health department guidelines for athletics and activities.