PREBLE COUNTY —Preble Shawnee High School has suspended in-person classes for two weeks following a large number of students and staff being asked to self-quarantine due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, while National Trail School District and Eaton Community Schools have also had positive tests.
“Yesterday it was announced that we had three positive cases of COVID-19 with students from our Jr/Sr High School,” a statement posted on Preble Shawnee Local School District’s website over the weekend reads. “Today that number has grown to five, with some results still outstanding.”
Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop confirmed that as of Monday evening 10 Preble Shawnee students had tested positive for the virus, with approximately 119 other students and staff being asked to self-quarantine due to contact tracing.
Bishop indicated that the primary reason for the decision to move the high school to remote learning until at least Monday, Nov. 2 was due to staffing concerns.
“Based on this reality, and the need to stop the current spread of the virus within our high school, we are moving our 9th through 12th grades to remote learning for the next two weeks,” the statement posted to Preble Shawnee’s website continues.
Teachers and staff will be on-site at the high school each day, according to Bishop; students will be required to log onto their teachers’ Google Classrooms daily to complete assignments and view live as well as pre-recorded lessons.
“It’s going to be a lot different from what we did in March, April and May last year,” Bishop said, indicating that if all of a student’s teachers chose to do live lessons “they could run through the whole gamut of a seven-period day pretty much as normal.”
Elementary and middle school students will continue attending classes as normal for the time being. Athletics and other extracurricular activities at the high school and beyond will also continue on a case-by-case basis, according to Bishop, who indicated that the majority of spread within the school population seems to be coming from extracurriculars and other outside sources.
“The data doesn’t necessarily suggest that the spread is happening during the course of the normal school day,” Bishop said. “We have a lot of our staff that coaches or advises extracurriculars.”
Bishop stressed the importance of not being too quick to shut down extracurricularsaltogether, however.
“It’s an important piece, but it does open us up to a little more close contact than a normal school day would offer,” Bishop said. “Right now obviously football is being impacted; once a team hits that threshold where we have to shut it down we’ll certainly do so, but at least right now we’re not there.”
Bishop urged those contacted by the school or health department and asked to self-quarantine to stay home and follow guidelines set forth by the Department of Public Health.
One K-6 employee and one other school district staff member have tested positive in the last week, according to National Trail Superintendent Bob Fischer, with an “exceptionally minimal” number of relatives and close relations being asked to self-quarantine.
“Most of it has been from community spread; we have not had any cases directly related to the district, which is a positive for us,” Fischer said.
Fischer stressed the importance of keeping students in the classroom if at all possible.
“Our hope is that we can continue to stay face-to-face as long as we possibly can; we do not want to go backwards, because that’s not what’s good for kids,” Fischer said. “They need to be in the classroom, and our teachers need to be in front of kids.”
Fischer also said it was crucial to continue following safety guidelines, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“We need to keep following our protocols. This is not something that’s going to go away,” Fischer said. “We announce this at every sporting event: we want to make sure we have school and we have our seasons.
“Following social distancing protocols and health department regulations – no matter what you think about them – is the only way we’re going to make it through this as a collective group,” Fischer said. “We need to keep doing everything we can to make sure that we’re able to educate our kids face-to-face, and that we’re able to continue having our activities after school.”
Eaton Community Schools are also dealing with their first COVID-19 case since the school year began.
In a letter to parents of Eaton High School students dated Oct. 19 from Eaton superintendent Jeff Parker, it said that a student at the high school had tested positive for COVID-19.
The student in question began feeling symptoms on Wednesday, Oct. 14, but had not been at school since Friday, Oct. 9. The school was notified of the positive test on Monday, Oct. 19.
Through contact tracing, the administration determined that the student was not within exposure distance to any students or staff members.
“Face coverings and social distancing were practiced during interactions during the school day,” Parker said in the letter. “We thoroughly disinfect the classrooms after school, along with cleaning appropriately throughout the day. If further guidance from the Preble County Health Department is shared, we will communicate this information as appropriate.”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles