School districts in Wisconsin and Illinois are grappling with reports of students testing positive for COVID-19, just days after in-person learning began.
The Rock County Health Department issued a news release stating school districts are working with the health department regarding these positive cases among students.
“There is no evidence at this time to suggest that any of these cases were obtained in the schools,” Rock County Health Officer Marie-Noel Sandoval said.
In Beloit, Rock County Christian School announced an undisclosed number of students tested positive cases for COVID-19. In response, the school discontinued in-person instruction on Tuesday, according to a voicemail sent to parents of students.
Head of School Ron Gruber could not be reached for comment regarding additional information on the positive cases and the school’s response. In the voicemail, Gruber told parents the school was in contact with the Rock County Public Health Department and noted that families would be notified if their students have been exposed to the virus.
“I have been in contact with the Rock County Public Health Department and will be following their lead as we begin the process of contact tracing,” Gruber said in the 46-second voicemail to parents.
In Janesville, two students in the Janesville School District tested positive for COVID-19, prompting students to be told to quarantine for 14 days. Exact schools identified with positive cases have not been named, although parents of Craig High School students told the Janesville Gazette the cases originated from the high school. The district does not plan to use virtual learning because of these incidents “at this time,” district spokesperson Patrick Gasper said.
In Green County, Brodhead High School switched from in-person learning to virtual e-learning after an outbreak among students following a student gathering that happened prior to school starting. In a news release issued on Monday, the Green County Public Health Department confirmed seven students tested positive for COVID-19.
“The Green County Public Health Department is working with Brodhead School District leadership and staff to conduct a thorough investigation to track, trace, and contain the virus,” said Green County Health Officer RoAnn Warden. “We want to assure the community, students and staff of Brodhead High School, and their family members that extra steps are being taken to protect students and staff to minimize the spread of COVID-19.”
Virtual learning at Brodhead will continue for two weeks, Warden said. The Brodhead School Board is scheduled to meet tonight to discuss the issue further.
Parkview School District in Orfordville is reporting two cases of COVID-19, according to School District Administrator Steve Lutzke. Some students have also been sent home from school this year with possible coronavirus symptoms and to receive tests as a precaution. He said the district in Orfordville is working closely with Rock County health officials.
“Our goal was to open on Sept. 1, and now our goal is to stay open all year,” Luztke said. “That’s going to be the harder goal. All the schools are working pretty hard to manage this situation.”
In Illinois, Hononegah Community High School officials announced three students tested positive for COVID-19. Superintendent Michael Dugan confirmed that the Winnebago County Health Department informed the school that the students contracted the virus prior to the start of school.
Dugan said the students are at home in quarantine and are not scheduled to return to school until cleared by the health department, adding that based on the initial investigation, there “has been no school exposure identified at this point.”
“We continue to proactively work to keep students and staff safe by following WCHD, IDPH, and CDC guidelines,” Dugan said. “We encourage people to practice social distancing, wear a face covering when in public, frequently wash hands and hard surfaces, and stay home if they are ill.”
Some school districts, however, appear COVID-free for now.
As of Tuesday, Clinton School District Superintendent Jim Brewer said the district was not aware of any COVID-19 cases, and South Beloit School District Superintendent Scott Fisher said there were no known cases in the district after four weeks of school.
In the Beloit Turner School District, Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said all classes in the district’s phased reopening plan remain open, and no coronavirus cases have been publicly identified so far.
The Turner district’s cohort model keeps students and staff based in one homeroom location throughout the day to mitigate possible spread of illness.
“We feel this is the safest way to begin the school year and this will present the least potential for cases to become bigger potential outbreak issues,” McCarthy said.
The district communicates directly with families and is fully prepared should any issues of concern arise, he said.
The Rock County Health Department states parents of students who shared learning spaces with a person who tested positive may receive a letter from the school notifying them that their child was in a classroom or shared space with the positive person. The letter will let them know if their child was considered a close contact and at high risk of having the virus. These students will need to quarantine for 14 days. Close contacts are anyone who was within six feet for a total of 15 minutes throughout the day.
Beloit Daily News reporters Hillary Gavan, Austin Montgomery and Brad Allen, as well as Adams Publishing Group reporter Frank Schultz, contributed to this story.