Thursday, August 20, 2020

DPI issues guidance on when schools should consider closing due to COVID

From The Journal

Adam Rogan

Students line up outside Waller Elementary, 195 Gardner Ave., in Burlington on Monday, the first day of in-person school being back in session in more than five months.

MADISON — In a new handbook, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has laid out the situations in which single classrooms, schools and entire school districts should consider shutting down because of COVID-19.
The state so far has generally allowed its more than 440 public school districts and private schools decide for themselves how they plan to continue educating Wisconsin’s youth amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. This plan, of allowing localities to make their own decision, is in line with what most states are doing.
Most school districts plan to have some form of socially distanced in-person education to start the year. The Burlington Area School District, for example, is already back to school. But Racine Unified is one of several more urban school districts starting the year completely virtually.
But DPI’s handbook — Guidelines for the Prevention, Investigation, and Control of COVID-19 Outbreaks in K-12 Schools in Wisconsin,” which was published this month — gives guidance about when canceling in-person education should be considered.

We are trying to not be too prescriptive so we don’t have a one-size fits all, because we know that schools and districts can vary,” Traci DeSalvo, acting director for the Department of Health Services’ Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said during a virtual press conference Wednesday. Still, DeSalvo noted that it is very likely for some outbreaks within schools to occur, as has been seen in numerous other schools across the country that have already shut down because of the coronavirus spreading quickly after reopening.

According to the handbook, DPI suggests that “school and district administrators should consider temporary classroom, school or districtwide closures” if any of the following situations arises “outbreak mitigation measures” are implemented and are still “ineffectual at halting” an outbreak within a school/classroom/district.
Beyond that, DPI has specific guidelines for when a closure should be at least considered for solitary classrooms or “student cohort,” for an entire school, or for a whole school district.

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