Classes at Watertown High School to remain online next week

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Watertown High School will be entering into it’s second week of online classes, after a high number of close contacts and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Currently, the high school has 38 confirmed cases, and over 250 students considered close contacts by the district. That prompted school officials to move the high school to online classes, attempting to limit the spread of the virus. Superintendent Jeff Danielsen says it was a tough call to resume online classes, but the district was more prepared for it this time than back in March, when classes were abruptly moved online.

“Some of our initial close contacts were now the ones testing positive. And with that many close contacts, we were very worried, very leery of the possibility that more of our close contacts would turn into positives, and continue spreading throughout the rest of the student body.” Danielsen says.

To try and curb the spread of cases, the school board voted in a special meeting Friday three to one to allow students considered close contacts to only isolate for three days instead of a full two weeks. However that option will only be given to students that regularly wear masks at school. It’s something Danielsen hopes will increase mask usage at the high school.

“Right now, our mask participation has been lower that we anticipated, even though we were highly recommending it. And so we hope that by kind of having this as a carrot out there.”

Currently the high school is slated to resume in-person classes on October 5th, if the school board confirms that an acceptable amount of students return from isolation. Danielsen says he hopes more students will use the district’s mask incentive to keep classes and activities in school.

“It does need to be a proactive decision. Because you don’t know when a positive case may turn up and be sitting next to you, or playing next to you.”

For now, elementary and middle schools will continue to have in-person classes, under the current safety measures set by the district.

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