UPDATED 6:10 p.m. | Two districts in McLean County that began the school year with in-person learning are shifting back to remote learning after reporting several COVID-19 cases.
Tri-Valley in Downs
Less than a week into its school year, the Tri-Valley school district in Downs has shifted to all virtual learning for two additional days, after three students and one teacher tested positive for the coronavirus.
Superintendent David Mouser said the district made the move on Saturday upon learning of the test results. He said that will allow time for contact tracing, adding he's confident that can be done with each of its 1,100 students before in-class instruction is scheduled to resume on Thursday.
“This decision was not made lightly as we recognize the inconvenience and challenges it will cause for families. However, we felt it was necessary until we can make sure our buildings are safe for students and staff to return,” Mouser said.
Tri-Valley scheduled virtual learning days for each Wednesday in September to prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak.
“The reality of needing to have a remote pause on occasion because of positive COVID tests we realized was just going to be the harsh reality of that we were going to need to deal with,” Mouser said. “I don’t know that we knew we were going to need to deal with it immediately after the first week of school.”
Mouser said the teacher displayed COVID symptoms on Thursday night and the students who tested positive have been asymptomatic. He said the COVID cases impact all three of the district’s school buildings.
Each student who was within six feet of one of those who tested positive for a total of 15 minutes will need to quarantine for 14 days before they can return to school.
Mouser said he’s concerned that a large number of students may need to be quarantined, but noted that’s why the high school only brings in half of the students on alternating days, while students in the lower grades are generally confined to one classroom to limit any potential coronavirus spread.
“Just by that alone, you are able to know that any student that may become positive, we are not going to have to quarantine an entire class or a grade level because we are able to keep our distancing that’s appropriate there,” Mouser said.
About 10% of Tri-Valley students took the district’s all-virtual option.
LeRoy High School
"Our COVID numbers in our district are performing better than expected, but in the last 72 hours we have had an increase in positive cases within our high school student population," LeRoy superintendent Gary Tipsord wrote to parents.
LeRoy's K-8 students are not affected by the change.
More child cases
Countywide, 53 children (ages 1 to 17) have tested positive for the coronavirus since Labor Day.
“We have seen some clusters of cases recently related to extracurricular activities,” said McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight. “Our schools that have in-person learning are taking measures to ensure social distancing is maintained and provide the safest possible environment for students, teachers and other staff.”
McKnight added health experts are still learning what role children play in spreading COVID-19.
“What we know is that even if they may be less likely to display symptoms or less likely to have severe illness, they are not immune to the virus,” she said.
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