By SARAH PARKER
County Line Editor
An upswing in Covid-19 cases and quarantines at Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton Schools caused the administration to switch to 100 percent virtual learning starting Monday.
At Monday’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Travis Anderson noted that the district had three more positive cases among students earlier this week and two more on Monday, bringing the total to seven active cases.
Also, the district had 140 absences related to Covid-19 out of 608 students. That figure includes those who are quarantined because they had contact with someone who had Covid-19 or had shown symptoms of Covid-19.
The Monroe County Health Department recommends that school should go virtual if Covid-related absences are between 10–20 percent. N-O-W was at 24 percent Monday.
Also, though the district had no active cases among the instructional staff, three were in quarantine, though all were working virtually.
The junior high and high school started virtual instruction this week, and the elementary school will start on Monday. Teacher virtual planning days are set for Thursday and Friday this week.
Anderson said, “With the exception of the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing, our school year’s still going very well. The staff are doing a tremendous job educating our students.” He praised their adherence to sanitation protocols.
• The USDA has extended the free lunch and breakfast through June 2021. Every student, regardless of household income, can receive free meals.
• Anderson and custodian Doug Schmitz recently met with a representative from Precision Controls to consider plans to upgrade the school’s air-quality system. As a result of that meeting and an analysis of N-O-W’s system, Precision Control suggested equipment the district could install in its air handlers and furnaces to ionize particles as airflow goes into the ductwork. Anderson said it would help kill coronavirus.
The Hillsboro, Kickapoo and Viroqua school districts had similar systems installed, Anderson noted.
Individual air purifiers would be a less attractive option, as they would take up more space in classrooms where students already are distanced, board Kevin Bauman noted. Such systems aren’t energy efficient, he added, and they require more maintenance.
The board approved Anderson’s proposal, and he expected the new ventilation system would be installed in November or December.
• The district will install more water fountains with bottle fillers.
• The district recently received 200 laptops it had on order since July.
• The district has spent about $163,000 of the $338,000 it had received from the federal CARES Act.