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EAST DUBUQUE–East Dubuque School District has gone remote, just days into the 2020-2021 school year. The dominoes started to fall on Monday, Aug. 31, when the district released a letter about a school bus driver testing positive for coronavirus.
“We now have reason to believe that we may have more bus drivers that will have to quarantine,” wrote East Dubuque Superintendent TJ Potts. “So as not to put any students or staff into a situation of being in contact with these drivers, or to have kids get to school with potentially no ride home, we will not run our school buses Tuesday morning.”
On Monday, East Dubuque officials had reason to believe a second bus driver tested positive. That was confirmed on Tuesday.
Due to the situation in the transportation department, the district had class on Tuesday but all in-person learners had to arrange for a ride to school.
Junior high and high school students had a remote learning day.
Elementary students that did not have a ride to school received an excused absence due to the elementary school being staffed for in-person learning. The district worked on a transition to allow remote learning at the elementary level.
“We would love for this to be seamless, but it is much different for our younger learners,” Potts said.
On Sept. 1, officials announced that the district would move to remote learning beginning on Sept. 2 with students returning to in-person learning on Sept. 14.
Potts said in the first days of school, the district did not have a positive case, but sent some students home with symptoms.
On Friday, Aug. 28, the first student tested positive, followed by a second on Monday and a third case on Tuesday.
“Friday we had our first positive case and had to quarantine that cohort and the kids that would be in contact with them on the bus,” said Potts.
By Sept. 1, the district had 50 students quarantined due to contact tracing. The district learned that two staff members had tested positive as well, with a third awaiting results.
“The students that were quarantined had to until the 10th, and staff that is quarantined would be out until the 11th,” said Potts. “We felt like it was safe to return on Monday, Sept. 14. We had 50 students quarantining and we had to slow the momentum.”
Potts said the administrative team met to assess the situation and will continue to do so. Officials have discussed things that the district could have done differently and what the schools need to prepare for when the students return.
“We tried to overcommunicate with families and give them potential scenarios, but starting Friday and going through Tuesday we sent at least five communications from the district, and building principals sent their own messages as well,” said Potts.
Potts said there are some tests performed on district students and staff members that had not had results returned as of Sept. 2.
The district is aware that those students and staff may have to be out longer, but he believes a vast majority of students will be able to return on Sept. 14.
“If we come back and we see cases flare up again, then we have to look at the calendar or the school day and make some decisions,” said Potts. “We have already begun that conversation in case that were to happen.”
Potts said the district is looking at other local districts as well to see what is working and what isn’t. Officials are also monitoring districts across the country to see how they are handling their response to COVID or quarantines.