Two of the smaller school systems in Monroe County will be joining their larger counterparts in Waterloo and Columbia by temporarily returning to remote learning next week.
Additionally, the Waterloo School District was forced to return its youngest students to remote learning earlier than planned.
Gibault Catholic High School and the Valmeyer School District announced last week that they plan to use only remote learning for the week after Thanksgiving as a precaution given the prevalence of COVID-19.
“We decided with the college kids coming home and the potential contacts of family and stuff over Thanksgiving that we’re just going to go remote for that week and give everything a chance to wash out so to speak,” Gibault Principal Stephen Kidd said. “We’re just doing a precautionary week because of the holidays.”
The Waterloo and Columbia school districts are taking the same approach, though they may extend their remote learning period after consulting with the Monroe County Health Department.
Kidd said it is extremely unlikely Gibault would stay with remote learning only for longer than a week.
“We are only taking that week. Unless there is something crazy going on, we’ll go back in for the last two weeks of school, including finals week,” he said, adding the school may do the same after New Year depending on how the numbers look afer Thanksgiving.
Kidd stressed this decision is not a result of an outbreak or high number of coronavirus cases at Gibault as they have minimal students quarantined.
“We’re just doing this to allow the holidays to happen without affecting our school.”
The Valmeyer School District said it will be using only remote learning after the holiday until Dec. 7 after what happened following Halloween.
“The school district saw a spike in positive cases (and related close contact quarantines) the days after the Halloween weekend,” Valmeyer Superintendent Eric Frankford wrote in an email to parents. “That spike, and the associated quarantines that followed, had an impact on our ability to remain in person. Therefore, we are making the extremely difficult decision to revert all students to remote learning for one week after Thanksgiving break.”
Students’ last day for in-person attendance was yesterday, as teachers used Wednesday as a remote learning planning day.
Frankford noted the district has maintained that in-person learning is best for students, but the local increase in coronavirus cases has forced the district’s hand.
“Unfortunately, the Monroe County area has seen a rapid rise of COVID-19 cases that is both alarming and concerning for our students and staff,” he wrote.
For the week they are learning remotely, Valmeyer students can check out a district laptop. They are expected to stay up-to-date on all assignments for the week.
The district will also still provide free breakfast and lunch to all students.
Waterloo School District students in fifth grade and below returned to remote learning a little earlier than planned, as the district notified parents Saturday night that those pupils would use remote learning Monday and Tuesday instead of attending in-person as originally planned.
“In our elementary schools alone, we are currently at over 180 individuals that are quarantine for being positive with COVID-19 or exposed to someone that is positive,” Waterloo Superintendent Brian Charron wrote in an email to parents. “Over 20 of these positive are (pre-K)-5 employees. We do not have evidence of an outbreak in any of our schools, but the outbreak in our community has consumed our ability to operate our schools effectively.”
Waterloo High School students are already learning remotely, and Waterloo Junior High School students were set to begin remote learning on Monday already.
“In order for us to provide the option of in-person learning for our students, it requires that we all cooperate in protecting each other from the potential spread of COVID-19,” Charron wrote. “Please be honest when you are completing the daily certification that your children are symptom free and have not been exposed to someone suspected of having COVID-19. We remain hopeful that our community’s positivity rate and our region’s hospitalization rate will soon support a return to in-person learning.”