Burlington Area School District officials on two occasions this fall have had to quarantine entire grade levels at separate schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, pictured above.

District had to convert first graders at Waller School to virtual learning

By Mike Ramczyk

Correspondent

Last week, overnight, the Burlington Area School District had to make the tough decision to convert to virtual education for Waller Elementary School first-graders – more than 80 kids in total.

One class of 20 or so had to quarantine because their first-grade teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

While those directly affected 6-year-olds finish up a 14-day quarantine, the students are set to come back to in-person instruction Monday, Oct. 5.

This is all par for the course, or the new “norm.”

According to BASD Communications Coordinator Julie Thomas, there are currently four individuals absent after testing positive for COVID, while 67 are in quarantine due to close contact with an individual who tested positive.

Two weeks ago, the number was nine overall cases in BASD and 106 in quarantine.

At seven weeks into the school year the Burlington district has had 11 positive COVID cases, according to Thomas.

And keep in mind this is only Burlington.

Waterford High School had a case this week and needed to cancel a volleyball match, Westosha Central has had a student test positive and Wilmot Union High School had to close its doors last week after several students tested positive.

Waller’s shift to virtual learning for first graders was the second this school year to go that route, as Karcher Middle School did the same thing for fifth graders a few weeks ago.

“One individual tested positive at Waller,” Thomas said. “As the Central Racine County Health Department and BASD’s Health Services Director worked on contact tracing, we recognized that several people would need to quarantine. Quarantine helps to slow the spread. For continuity in learning, all of Waller’s first grade shifted to virtual learning.

“Taking this action is consistent with what the district communicated it would do in its back-to-school plan, she added. “The district took the same action for a similar situation in the fifth grade earlier this year. Families should have a plan in case their student needs to shift to virtual learning throughout the school year. We recognize that shifting to virtual can create challenges for families, but we are glad that we have the ability to shift to virtual learning.”

Second grade through fourth grade is still attending Waller in-person.

Thomas said 11 cases isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it’s been at least manageable.

Considering the school district enrolls more than 3,000 students, things could be worse.

“We didn’t know what number of cases to expect when school started. Now in our seventh week of school, having only eleven individuals within a learning community of our size seems like a steady start to the school year,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, according to the Central Racine County Health Department, positive cases are on the rise in Racine County.”

To read the entire story and a separate report on the prevalence of coronavirus in Racine County, see the Oct. 1 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.