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Jefferson Co. health dept. to meet with school superintendents over rise in COVID-19 cases

Several schools within the county have some form of in-person instruction.
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 5:16 PM CST
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LAKE MILLS, Wis. (WMTV) - On Thursday, public health officials will meet with Jefferson County school superintendents to give an update on the rise in COVID-19 cases in the county.

“This is critical,” said Gail Scott, the Director of the Jefferson County Health Department. “We are at a very critical number of cases.”

Right now, there are 3,564 cases, an increase of 500 cases in the last week.

Jefferson County Health Dept. has a team of nurses, contact tracers, and epidemiologists designated specifically to work with schools learning in-person.

“We work with them daily,” said Scott. “As soon as we find out there’s a case, or the school finds out, we work together and get anyone who was exposed in quarantine.”

At times, this means whole classrooms or cohorts are placed in quarantine out of precaution.

“If we do feel that they should go virtual, we do let them know but ultimately that decision is made by the school and normally by the school board,” Scott said.

At Lake Mills Area School District, staff are working to keep up with health and safety protocols.

“We’re doing everything that the CDC recommends,” said Tonya Olson, the Lake Mills Area School District Administrator. “The safety of our staff and students is our number one priority in the district.”

Olson says the district works closely with public health officials to monitor case levels.

“If we did start seeing spread occur, that would be cause for us to shift to virtual instruction,” said Olson. “The cases we’ve had have bene isolated and not lead to further spread.”

Between students and staff, there have been about 30 positive cases district-wide.

“We have about 80 percent of our students in-person,” said Olson. “It’s a tough time statewide and I think we just make the best decisions we can with the information we have.”

Still, a handful of Lake Mills educators have expressed their health and safety concerns over in-person learning to the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

“What should be happening is that the district should be taking a lead,” said John Wedge, who is the WEAC Region 6 Director. “We know that the best thing for kids is to be in the classroom, but it’s not to be in the classroom and they’re putting other people’s lives and their own health in danger.”

Wedge says he’s heard from a few teachers who say they feel at risk.

“There’s a disconnect really with the administration,” said Wedge. “They’re not really grasping the severity of the situation.”

Both WEAC and Lake Mills can agree it’s a challenge to make this decision at the local level.

“I think we would like to think the state would take the lead in this situation as a lot is being asked of school districts and educators,” said Wedge. “We need our state elected officials to step up now and put into place a coherent plan.

Olson said it’s a tough time across the state for educators at all levels.

“I think we just make the best decisions we can with the information we have,” she said.

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