Kewaunee, Luxemburg-Casco classes quarantined after positive COVID-19 tests
Two groups of students in the Kewaunee School District are under quarantine after three students and three staff members tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and some community members are asking why the situation wasn't made public.
Also, a second teacher and a support staff member in the Luxemburg-Casco School District tested positive this week, which sent a total of 64 students in three primary school classes into quarantine.
All students have the option to begin taking classes remotely while under quarantine, which will last 14 days.
Karen Treml, superintendent of the Kewaunee district, said one second grade classroom and one group of high school students who are together for the same period are in quarantine, along with the three teachers.
Treml said contact tracing indicated all of the positive cases were contracted outside the schools, that there was no transmission within from teacher to student or student to student.
But the school's protocol for COVID-19 cases called for the classrooms to be quarantined because of the other students' contact with the people who contracted the virus. Even with precautions in place in the schools, including Plexiglas shields between students, contact for 15 minutes or more is considered a risk factor.
"Classrooms are busy places," Treml said. "We're going to err on the side of caution."
A city resident who contacted the Kewaunee County Star-News said other residents, including parents of students in other classes, wondered why the district didn't issue any communications about the quarantines.
Treml said students and parents who might be directly affected by the positive tests were contacted, including one communication to all residents.
She said the district mailed three letters regarding positive cases on three different occasions since the start of the school year.
The first went to "the entire community," she said, after a positive was reported over the Labor Day weekend, although the person hadn't been to school yet. A second letter went to parents of all high school students after one student tested positive, and the third was sent to all parents of second grade students after one of their students tested positive.
Treml said she and the school board discussed possibly issuing updates in the coming weeks on the district's COVID-19 situation to the general public during the board's Sept. 14 meeting. She said updates most likely would take the form of a weekly post on the district's website or Facebook page, noting the Howard-Suamico district in suburban Green Bay has a dashboard that provides current numbers on its website.
Treml said she's concerned that people might see the word "quarantine" and think it's the same as "infected" or "sick." She emphasized that the quarantines are implemented to prevent the spread of the virus, as recommended by the Public Health Department.
"Unfortunately, people are hearing we're quarantining kids and (think) it's a terrible thing," Treml said. "It's a precautionary measure under guidance from the (county) Public Health Department. … It's a concern because, if people don't understand what the quarantine means as opposed to a positive test, that could cause panic."
At Luxemburg-Casco, Superintendent Glenn Schlender said one teacher reported a positive test Wednesday and the support staff member did so Thursday. Another teacher in the primary school tested positive just before the start of the school year but never went into the building and taught their classes remotely.
Because the teacher who tested positive Wednesday works with two different classrooms that rotate teachers, 36 students were quarantined. Twenty-eight students from one class entered quarantine because of the support staffer's positive result, and Schlender said all students were outfitted with Chromebooks to begin virtual classes.
"It's just something we have to get ready for," Schlender said. "It's not something you want to get good at doing, but it's something that's coming."
Treml said the schools continue to ask students and staff who are sick or exhibit symptoms to stay home until the symptoms pass or they get a COVID-19 test that comes back negative. She noted the timeline to return actually can be shorter for those who test positive — 10 days after symptoms disappear for active cases, versus 14 days for people in contact with a positive case.
It's becoming especially difficult now, Treml said, because COVID-19 symptoms mostly are similar to those for colds and flu, which are entering their seasons, and allergens remain on the high side in the area.
"It's going to be hard," Treml said. "We know it's cold and flu season, we know it's allergy season."
She said the district also sent a letter to parents this week to say it's looking at options, including going back to all remote classes as done during the state's safer-at-home order this spring, if more cases show up in the schools or the current COVID-19 activity continues across Kewaunee County. The number of positive tests in the county has more than doubled in the past month, from 146 as of Aug. 18 to 312 as of Wednesday, Sept. 16, with 90 cases in eight days since Sept. 8.
"However, we'll do everything we can to stay out of all virtual learning," Treml said.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee, Luxemburg-Casco classes quarantined after positive COVID-19 tests