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Schools now juggling coronavirus concerns

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GALENA–A Galena High School student and the parent of a primary school student have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday, Sept. 3, Superintendent Tim Vincent alerted families.

“Today, we received information that a student at Galena High School who has been learning in a hybrid format has tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing symptoms last week while they were at school,” Vincent wrote in a letter to parents. “In addition, there is a student at the primary school who has been treated as symptomatic after a parent tested positive.”

Vincent said that the district is working closely with the Jo Daviess County Health Department to make sure all guidelines are followed and contact tracing is performed appropriately at both schools.

“Through this tracing, we have determined that one full classroom at the primary school and 17 high school students have to be quarantined,” said Vincent. “Per the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the health department, family members of the quarantined students do not need to be quarantined unless they begin exhibiting symptoms.”

Vincent said that the district is sending positive energy to the families of those that tested positive and that the staff in the district have handled the situation well.

“We are proud of the protocols, seating charts and planning have allowed us to minimize the impact,” said Vincent. “I will continue to overcommunicate with all of you and ensure that the entire school community is informed and want to ensure you that we have student and staff safety as our highest priority.”

 

One message

All district superintendents in the county have met regularly with the health department to determine proper protocol and guidance as well as to make sure all superintendents hear the same information and have the same message.

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“We all met as a county (on Aug. 28) with the health department and we are dealing with issues where schools will have to make decisions (on quarantining or going remote) on a case-by-case measure,” said Vincent. “Due to the small sample size in our county it is easy for us to fall under the warning regardless of the impact on the schools and on the county.”

Vincent explained that for a county of Jo Daviess’ size, 10 or 12 cases could trigger one of the warning metrics.

“When you just look at those metrics, it is easy for a county of our size to be under a warning and it is equally due to sample size,” said Vincent. “Because of that we have to base it on local cases and cases affecting the individual districts.”

“The meetings with the schools are more consultative at our level,” said Jo Daviess County Public Health Administrator Sandra Schleicher. “We have been talking to the districts a lot. We have been meeting once per week.”

Galena officials were preparing for scenarios when a student or a staff member tested positive.

“We have to go case-by-case to change from remote to in-person,” said Vincent. “We have many options on our platter where we could go remote by school or as a district.”

The health department also informed district officials that even if a student or staff member tests negative, those individuals are not exempt from the total length of the quarantine due to the length of time it takes for some individuals to show symptoms.

“If a student or staff member is told they have to quarantine, it is for the full amount of time,” said East Dubuque superintendent TJ Potts.

“We are more in communication with districts if something is happening and to provide information to help them make a decision if something is going on,” said Schleicher.

Schleicher said the health department also reviewed all return to learn plans to make sure the plans met all state standards.

“We will need to continue to stay strong as a community as we navigate through this school year,” said Vincent. “The school district encourages all community members to maintain safe social distances, wear masks in public when social distancing cannot be maintained and wash your hands so that we may all help our students return to school safely this fall.”

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