Virus forcing schools to pivot


Local schools are making tough decisions as the COVID pandemic affects students, teachers and staff. 

Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron notified parents Saturday that students in grades 6-12 may soon return to remote learning because the district has so many teachers quarantined after contracting or being exposed to the novel coronavirus. 

Last month, Waterloo High School had at least five positive COVID cases among its student body.

“As we remain committed to providing in-person learning to our students, it is becoming increasingly difficult to staff our buildings with the number of employees necessary to sustain an in-person option at all grade levels,” Charron wrote in an email to parents. “We have several employees that are unable to be present due to being on quarantine, etc. We are faced with the difficult dilemma of having to prioritize in-person learning opportunities for students that need it the most and what will cause the least burden on our students and families.”

This news comes as Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School went to remote learning only on Monday. 

SPPCS Principal Lori Matzenbacher said the school will continue with remote learning through Thanksgiving due to “a shortage of staff members and substitutes.” Students are scheduled to return to in-person learning on Nov. 30. 

“We have had a great run at in-person learning, making it almost 60 days,” Matzenbacher. “We hope that taking a short break and allowing our faculty and school families to stay home, rest, recuperate and learn remotely will allow us to come back stronger in December and make it through the upcoming holiday season and remainder of the school year while keeping everyone safe and healthy.” 

For the Waterloo School District, Charron said the return to remote learning could happen “with little notice” and told parents to prepare accordingly. 

As of Monday, Charron said Waterloo High School and Waterloo Junior High School will remain open, though two more teachers went into quarantine. 

“We are looking to see who’s coming off (quarantine) and whether we can find subs,” he said. 

Charron also pledged the district will work to make the time those grades spend back doing only remote learning as short as possible based on when a sufficient number of district employees return from quarantine

The problem, however, is a lack of substitute teachers.

“We will continue working to secure substitute teachers for known absences for next week, but we are quickly running out of options and will be unable to sustain the loss of any further employees,” Charron said, noting interested parties can visit the Regional Office of Education website or call 618-939-5650 to find out more about becoming a substitute teacher.

Charron also pointed out that none of the quarantined individuals have contracted COVID-19, which he credited to widespread social distancing and mask wearing in the district.

On Monday, Immaculate Conception School in Columbia informed affected families that a student in one of its younger classes tested positive for the virus, meaning a group of students and teachers must now quarantine. 

All of these developments come about two weeks after the Dupo School District temporarily had students in its junior high and high school return to remote learning “due to a COVID situation.” 

Students learned remotely from Oct. 27-Nov. 6 in those schools after one student in each tested positive for the virus, according to the district’s website. 

“As a precautionary measure and based of the number of individuals that required to quarantine due to having close contact with the students who tested positive, one section of third grade and one section of fourth grade and all junior and senior high (students) grades seven through 12th have been transitioned to remote learning through and including Nov. 5,” Dupo Superintendent Kelly Carpenter wrote in a letter to parents.

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