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More Morton Students Quarantining After Potential COVID Exposures

Morton District 709 Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hill speaks at the August 18, 2020 school board meeting.
Morton 709 via NFHS Network Livestream
Morton District 709 Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hill speaks at the August 18, 2020 school board meeting.

Morton District 709 currently reports eight COVID-19 positive students district-wide. Another 96 are currently in quarantine, up from 43 on Friday.

That's according to district Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hill, who is communicating COVID-19 cases with students and parents every Friday. He gave an update during the school board's regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

No teachers or staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, but 11 are currently quarantining, said Hill, adding the district is coordinating with the Tazewell County Health Department on a daily basis.

The health department said Monday that no Morton schools are currently considered outbreak locations. To qualify as an outbreak location, COVID-19 cases would need to be linked back to specific schools or classrooms. Multiple students testing positive for COVID-19 doesn't necessarily qualify as an outbreak.

School Board President Dr. Shad Beaty, an OSF pediatrician, said the overall prevalence of students who tested positive or who are quarantining due to COVID-19 in Morton schools is significantly lower as a percentage than Tazewell County as a whole.

"Because of the work that our administrative team, our teachers, the entire district has done, our kids are there, in person, safely," Beaty said.

Beaty said any student who was potentially exposed to a positive COVID-19 case must quarantine for 14 days at home under Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. He said the district also is taking very seriously symptoms like headaches that could indicate the onset of COVID-19.

"Those kids are going to get sent home. We're erring on the side of safety. Those kids are going to need to be evaluated by their physicians. So it's going to be a little laborsome on the families. But everybody's doing their part so we can keep the kids in there," he said.

Most Morton students returned to school last week. About 300 students district-wide opted for homeschooling or remote learning. The other 2,800 students are back in class full time.

In addition to mask requirements when social distancing isn't possible, Hill said there are additional safeguards in place for transportation and food services.

"That's going to be part of our communication as we forward," Hill said. "It's a different environment. Those areas are all different for everybody. So we're trying to make sure everybody is comfortable with those steps."

The Dunlap School District also is returning most of its students to class for the fall semester with additional safety protocols in placed. Other districts, like Peoria District 150 and Canton Union District 66, opted for full remote learning.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WCBU will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WCBU can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

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Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.