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DIGGING DEEPER: COVID-19 and schools

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Central Wisconsin (WAOW) -- Right now, hundreds of students and staff in school districts across North Central Wisconsin are quarantined because of COVID-19. This has forced some classes and schools to go to virtual learning temporarily.

However, two months into the school year and thousands of students are learning in-person right now.

The school year though has been far from easy for anyone.

"It's still hard," said Erica Haga, a parent of four school-aged kids in Wisconsin Rapids.

Haga opted to start her kids virtually, but it was a challenge.

"We decided to send them back," Haga said. "They made it for two weeks before we got that phone call and then one of them was sent back home right away."

While Haga says she noticed her kids were happier in school, there were some struggles. For example, you never know when you may get a call that your child was a close contact with someone with COVID-19 at school.

"Every day is, you have to sit and wonder every day are you going to get the phone call again," said Haga.

It hasn't just been hard on parents, but on staff too.

"Staff are also very tired," said Craig Gerlach, the Stevens Point School District Superintendent. "It's extremely difficult challenging to teach both in person as well as virtually."

The Stevens Point Area School District has had an option for in-person learning since summer school. However, they are making a three week switch to virtual learning to help out teachers. Until this point though, there's been a small percentage of students and staff who have tested positive for COVID.

"It's safer to be in school than not if you're a student because of the safety precautions we have in place," said Gerlach.

COVID-19 and Schools Data

There are roughly 7600 students in the Stevens Point School District. Since April, there have been 106 people to test positive. Right now, there are 15 positive cases in the district which is 0.2 percent of the population

It's a similar trend throughout the area.

Edgar School District has fewer than 700 students.

There are currently 6 active COVID-19 cases in the district, or 0.9 percent. There have been 32 cases since September.

"It's not like it's perfect, it's messy, but it seems to be in control," said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.

Virtual VS In-person School

A big question has become, which has worked better so far this year, virtual or in-person?

The D.C Everest School District has largely been in-person since the beginning of the year.

As of Monday morning, there were 29 active COVID-19 cases. That's 0.5 percent of population.

In the Wausau School District, which just began in-person schooling Monday, there were 20 cases Monday morning. That's 0.2 percent of population. As of Monday night, they reported 35 active cases, which is 0.4 percent.

"We're not seeing the rise in cases in other school districts around us," said Wausau School District Dir. of Pupil Services Angela Lloyd.

School districts have credited mask wearing, social distancing and contact tracing as how they've kept COVID-19 under control.

The bigger issue coming down to what people do outside of school.

"We can control a lot of the environment when the kids are in school but we can't control what's happening when they're not in school," said Lloyd.

Regardless of the school closures and temporary e-learning many district leaders and parents say it was worth it to open schools back up.

Courtney Terlecki

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