BRODHEAD — Brodhead High School is keeping students home at least another week after a COVID-19 outbreak that is having a “rippling impact” in the greater community.
The school went virtual Sept. 8 and originally planned to bring back students in two weeks but is now extending online learning through Sept. 25.
School board members will decide at a Sept. 23 meeting whether to return to in-person learning Sept. 28, Superintendent Lenny Lueck said.
The switch to online learning was prompted by an outbreak traced to an informal party some students attended the weekend before classes began on Sept. 1. Lueck said 20 people in the school district have tested positive in connection with the outbreak.
Overall, 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 are now traced to the party held at the end of August. This includes residents of Green County and other counties. Most of the cases — 84% — are in the 10 to 19 age range.
The outbreak has had a “rippling impact” across the community, including through household spread, in a workplace and in an assisted living facility, said Green County Public Health Director RoAnn Warden.
“There’s been a lot of impact from that young adult gathering that occurred,” she said. Many “may not have known they were spreading it.”
The decision to stop in-person learning at Brodhead High School happened over a weekend and was “definitely a wakeup call for parents,” Lueck said.
“We can switch in a heartbeat. I think it really woke up a lot of people that it could happen.”
The decision to extend school closure another week allows for “any outliers that might still be out there” who test positive, Lueck said. Waiting another week also gives Lueck and the school board an opportunity to make a decision together on how to move forward.
“Right now I don’t see anything changing for our elementary and middle schools,” where in-person attendance has been at about 95%, Lueck said.
Online attendance for the high school was about 85% the first week of virtual learning and 95% the second week.
“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from parents,” Lueck said, noting that with a summer to prepare, online learning this fall is “quite a bit different from what it was last spring.”
In addition, Albany School District had a small outbreak, Warden said. The district moved to full virtual instruction Sept. 10 but is returning to a hybrid model Sept. 21, with 4K through 6th grade meeting in person and 7th through 12th grade staying virtual.
Green County positivity rate rising
Among all age groups, preteens and teens now lead Green County for most confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Green County Public Health.
Cases and positivity rates in general have risen steadily over the past week among Green County residents, peaking at 63 active cases and four hospitalized. This is the most hospitalized at one time since early April.
Of 1,048 people tested in the past two weeks, 109 tested positive, putting the county’s positivity rate at 10%.
“That’s significant. That’s way too high,” Warden said. For the county’s COVID-19 activity level to move back down to “medium” from “high,” the rate would need to be less than 5%.
All Wisconsin counties have high activity levels as of Sept. 16, except one up north, Price County.
During the month of September, Green County’s COVID-19 testing target is 66 tests per day or 460 per week. This target is a recommendation from the state, based on the number of known cases in the community and estimated number of contacts and acute respiratory infections, Warden said.
County data shows this target is being met, with an average of 524 tests per week over the past two weeks.
Free drive-through nasal swab COVID-19 testing is offered by appointment 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays in Monroe at the National Guard Armory, 1130 30th St.
It’s also offered alternating Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in New Glarus and Brodhead. On Sept. 21, testing will be done at the Swiss Center of North America, 507 Durst Rd., New Glarus.
To sign up and make an appointment, go to gcpublichealth.org and click on the red testing banner.