Health department directive, COVID-19 cases delay resuming in-person classes post-spring break for center, high schoolers | COVID-19
TRAVERSE CITY – Swirling rumors of a return to virtual education grounded in less than an hour on Monday.
Text chimes, email notifications, and the occasional ringing of a phone were all just one thing.
Parents and their children, confined to their cars and waiting in the long line for a quick COVID-19 test at Traverse City Central High School, heard a whisper around 5 p.m. that teaching and learning was returning to the distance . At 6 p.m. the announcement was made.
Grand Traverse County’s Department of Health officials instructed all Grand Traverse County’s school districts to bring middle and high school classes back online by April 12. The primary school classes remain personal. The news was released a little over 12 hours before classes resumed after the spring break.
Scout Russell, a 16-year-old student at Central High, was not the least bit surprised by the news.
“I can immediately name dozens of people I know who have traveled,” she said.
Russell said she felt “uncomfortable” when she returned from spring break. She therefore believes that going back to virtual is the right choice, at least for the week.
Russell’s father James saw the switch coming too.
“You had so many cases before the spring break,” he said. “I was surprised that we didn’t close before then. It makes sense when everyone comes back from travel that they do. “
Grand Traverse County’s Medical Director Michael Collins said the steadily rising positivity rate of 15 to 16 percent, along with the record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations – 92 across the Munson health system – is taking both health and school officials a break education granted on personal return.
“It’s not to be underestimated,” said Collins. “All of these numbers are increasing.”
Traverse City Area Public Schools, in partnership with the GT Health Department, ran the clinic, which tested an estimated 700 people for COVID-19. The number of positives was not available on Monday at 9:30 p.m. If the positivity rate is true, Collins says it will lead to more confirmed cases, more isolations, and more contact tracing, which would lead to more quarantines among students.
Cathy Stoddard and her son Jack, an eighth grader at Traverse City West Middle School, stood in line on Monday.
West Middle was one of 84 schools in Michigan added to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service’s list of COVID-19 outbreak locations along with West Senior High, Mancelona, Frankfurt, Glen Lake, Leland, and The Children’s House . Benzie, TC Central, Suttons Bay, and Manton remained on the list of sustained outbreaks.
Stoddard said it’s pretty clear that Michigan is seeing a surge in some cases.
“Whatever we can do to suppress it, we have to do it,” said Stoddard. “I don’t want to go backwards. So it’s okay if we have to go virtual. We will make it. “
Nick Celgarek, superintendent of Northwest Education Services, said all school districts have approved plans directing them to follow directions from local health departments. The announcement on Monday marks the first time officials from the local health department have issued orders to end face-to-face learning.
Ceglarek said North Ed, formerly the Intermediate School District of the Traverse Bay Area, had worked in lockstep with medical professionals throughout the pandemic.
“Each area is a little different in how the virus can spread or contain,” Celgarek said. “We need to be clear about what we can do to support our community and make sure our students stay as safe as possible.”
Not all of the surrounding counties followed Grand Traverse’s lead.
Michelle Klein, director of personal health at Benzie-Leelanau’s health department, said she doesn’t recommend switching to virtual learning. Klein said they saw a couple of falls, but not a spike as dramatic as in Grand Traverse.
“We know school is not the primary mode of transmission. It’s the socializing outside of school, ”said Klein. “So being more outside of school isn’t necessarily a big plus and it could be detrimental.”
All health ministry officials are urging residents to get tested to help slow the spread of the virus as cases and hospital stays increase. In response to the increasing cases, the MDHHS restored the 14-day standard quarantine for close contacts.
GT County Health Department and school district officials will meet on Friday to see if the shutdown continues after April 9.
“If there is no relief or even deterioration in what we see … that would be the kind of thing that makes us think about another week,” said Collins.
The TCAPS Board of Education will meet at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the Department of Health’s order.