Ashwaubenon reports ‘slight spike’ in student COVID-19 cases
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The school board received an update Wednesday, April 14, from Superintendent Kurt Weyers on how the district is handling the COVID-19 pandemic as schools remain open to in-person instruction five days a week.
“As a board, you made the decision to get our kids back in school second semester, and we have seen nothing but great success since,” he said.
Ashwaubenon previously had partial or total remote instruction this school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but since Jan. 25, around 2,750 students who opted for in-person instruction – about 83 percent of total enrollment – have been back in school five days a week.
Weyers said K-5 students, who have been in-person for almost four consecutive months, experienced “some small quarantines,” while secondary students had a “limited amount of quarantines.”
“We continue to have some quarantines,” he said. “I think you have all seen in the news, or have read, there is a slight spike occurring right now with students and younger students. We’re seeing that a little bit here as well.”
Weyers said the district had no staff absences April 9 due to COVID-19, while the daily average is around two to three.
“A couple weeks ago we were averaging about 30 students in quarantine a day,” he said. “And like I said, we’ve had a little bit of a spike. The last four days (leading up to the April 14 board meeting) we’ve been averaging just a little over 110 students in quarantine.”
Weyers said the district’s dashboard with COVID-19 data has changed because of Brown County no longer providing data such as the burden rate, the number of positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 county residents over the past 14 days.
Instructional Technology Coordinator Jamie Averbeck, who put together the district’s dashboard, said the county no longer has its own dashboard and now refers residents to a website from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
“With the CDC having their new updated guidance, we thought it made the most sense to just to report that,” he said. “But we didn’t want to confuse anybody by changing the front of the dashboard, because it’s a different metric. It’s a seven-day metric as far as case rate. It’s also a positive rate per test, not per person, so that rate is going to look a little different.”
Averbeck said part of the CDC’s guidance states if a school is open and is mitigating the spread of COVID-19 with low cases of transmission, “stay open.”
“I think it’s really important that we continue to monitor our local dashboard data like we have with those checkmarks, and then have page two (on the dashboard) to keep an eye on what’s happening in the county,” he said. “As Kurt said, there’s been a slight increase, but as you can see, our local numbers have been pretty good.”
The district’s dashboard lists the percentage of absences among teaching and non-teaching staff, as well for all district students, who are also broken down in grades 4K-5 and 6-12.
Weyers said most district staff members have either received both or the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I really feel like anybody who wants to be vaccinated on our staff will have that opportunity and will be vaccinated by the end of April,” he said.
However, Weyers said the district is “not out of the woods yet” related to COVID-19.
“We still need to continue to stay vigilant in our work that our safety procedures (are followed) and practice the three Ws – wash your hands, watch your distance and wear your mask,” he said. “We will continue to do that for the rest of the school year… Our plan is to wear them during summer school as well.”
Weyers said field trips for the remainder of the school year will be limited to the district boundaries.
“What that means is we will allow our fifth-graders to go from Pioneer to go to Valley View over for some war reenactment,” he said. “We’re allowing some of our transition field trips that we have. For example, some of our fifth-graders go over and transition to Parkview. Some of Parkview students transition and have a day or spend a half day over at the high school.”
Weyers said the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is also included in the district boundaries, because “quite a few” high school students attend classes or are involved in activities at NWTC.
He said an outdoor graduation for the high school seniors is planned for 1:30 p.m. June 13 at Goelz Field, weather permitting, while a senior night is scheduled May 21 at the community center.