(Photo via School District of the Menomonie Area)
(Photo via School District of the Menomonie Area)

Announcement comes as children account for the largest number of new COVID-19 cases in the state.

A recent spike in new COVID-19 cases has prompted the closure of classes next week in the Menomonie Area School District. 

In a letter to district parents and staff members, district Superintendent Joe Zydowsky announced that the district will close on Monday, Nov. 22, and Tuesday, Nov. 23, because of increased spread of the coronavirus. The district was scheduled to have the rest of the week off for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Since August, Wisconsinites under 18 have accounted for the largest group of people testing positive for COVID-19, according to state Department of Health Services (DHS) data.

Educating students has become increasingly difficult for the past couple of weeks as more teachers and other staff have been forced to isolate after being exposed to COVID-19, Zydowsky said. 

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“It has been a difficult few weeks in the school district,” Zydowsky wrote in his message. “A sharp increase in COVID-19 transmission throughout the community has led to many teachers and support staff members having to isolate, quarantine, or stay home to provide care for children unable to attend school or local daycare centers.”

As evidence of the staff shortage, Zydowsky asked interested community members to apply for substitute teachers or other jobs in the district. Currently, 85 students have recently tested positive for the virus, and 307, or 9.53% of total district students, are isolated from class, according to district figures. Two staff members have the virus at this time, and another 14 are thought to have been exposed to it. 

Some other Wisconsin school districts have noted rising COVID-19 case numbers as the number of new cases of the virus statewide has risen recently after a slow decline. Since mid-October the number of new daily positive virus cases had dropped, according to state DHS data. But this month, that number has grown again, reaching 3,486, with a 10% positivity rate, on Nov. 10.

While many of Wisconsin’s urban school districts require face masks, most in rural areas do not. The Menomonie School Board voted twice earlier this year against requiring masks before subsequently deciding that elementary school students must wear them. As in many school districts across the state, masks have become contentious in Menomonie schools. The parents of a 6-year-old student with Down syndrome in October filed legal action against the district for failing to protect their daughter from contracting COVID-19.