TOWN OF BELOIT — In line with its Road to Reopening plan and COVID-19 guidance from the Rock County Health Department, the Beloit Turner School District will transition to virtual-only learning for five weeks after the Thanksgiving break.

The Board of Education met Thursday night and voted to shift all classes online from Nov. 30 until Jan. 15.

The Beloit Turner School District is proceeding with winter athletics, after the Board of Education reviewed guidelines related to sports. However, the board did not make any decision regarding student sports on Thursday.

The Clinton, Edgerton, Milton and Janesville school districts also have decided to shift to virtual learning in accordance with Rock County Health Department recommendations. The Parkview and Evansville school districts are continuing with in-person classes.

In a letter sent to families Thursday night, Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said the blended model of in-person and virtual classes is scheduled to resume on Tuesday, Jan. 19. In the meantime, limited services for some special education students will take place on school grounds.

“This was not an easy decision in many ways, but it is one we had to support,” McCarthy wrote. “Unfortunately, our district continues to see very concerning trends of case numbers and noncompliant behavior that includes incidents of students being sent to school despite positive cases and symptomatic close contacts in the house. In order for our case numbers to begin to reduce, we must all be willing to follow minimum safety expectations and guidelines.”

McCarthy wrote that as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket and as area hospitals have fewer available beds, it is clear that urgent action is needed. He stated that students’ and community members’ safety remains a top priority.

“As a school district, we have agreed to do our part in helping slow community activity by avoiding bringing together our students on site for instruction after these holiday breaks,” McCarthy wrote. “While many are trying to do the right thing and putting challenging restrictions in place, by limiting family gatherings, it is also quite clear many are not. We hope everyone can see the urgency of this issue.”

In a follow-up letter to families Thursday night, Beloit Turner High School Principal Christopher Koeppen wrote that student athletes are taking multiple precautions in order to play winter sports.

During a prior meeting on Nov. 9, Koeppen wrote, “the Board decided to move forward with athletics programming on the condition that strong safety metrics be in place along with specific conditions under which the teams’ participation would be suspended or cancelled. These guidelines have been established.”

Koeppen wrote that all participating student athletes have indicated they are committee to reducing possible exposure to COVID-19, pledged to report any signs of illness and have agreed to pursue virtual-only classes.

“The majority of athletes were already required to switch to virtual instruction as a condition of their participation in order to limit exposure risk to the rest of our building; therefore, the decision to switch the whole district to virtual instruction has minimal impact on our athletic programming plans,” Koeppen wrote. “Our athletes, coaches, and administration all understand the responsibility we share in moving forward as purposefully and as carefully as possible.”