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COVID-19 cases prompt two-week closing of middle school

No students test positive at this point

Lowell Middle School closed today, Oct. 7, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases with staff, moving to online instruction for two weeks, district officials announced. In-person classes were planned to resume Wednesday, Oct. 21.

The closure was made at the recommendation of the Kent County Health Department due to “recent positive COVID-19 test results at the Middle School and the extent of possible student and staff contact,” interim Superintendent Nate Fowler wrote in an email to families. 

“Closing the Middle School will give the Kent County Health Department the necessary time to contact any student that may have come in contact with those who have tested positive,” Fowler wrote. “This will also allow us to slow any additional spread.”

Fowler later said no middle school students have tested positive at this point, and that Kent County Health Department contact tracers are still in the process of notifying any close contacts who may need to enter quarantine. 

Related: Dashboard tracks COVID-19 cases in Kent County Schools

He did not specify how many staff tested positive but said they will be updating the Kent ISD COVID-19 district dashboard and will share more information regarding positive cases soon. In the meantime, district officials are encouraging all students to limit their social interactions outside of school to reduce potential infections.  

“There were many factors that went into this decision, including the number of cases, the number of people in close contact and our ability to safely maintain our education programs,” said Fowler. “When we reviewed our contact tracing with the KCHD, we determined that the potential exposure within the school was such that a closure of two weeks would mitigate any potential spread.”

All Lowell Middle sports will also be canceled over the two-week period, and the building will be cleaned and disinfected, Fowler said. Parents were urged to monitor their children for any sign of COVID-19 symptoms, while quarantined families stay home and students reduce social contacts. 

Students, Staff Prepared for Remote Instruction

Students were directed to work on Chromebooks, with remote access available if needed at several sites including libraries and school parking lots. 

“We learned a lot in the spring when schools were closed and from the experiences of our teachers who are teaching currently in a remote setting,” said Fowler. “Starting our school year utilizing a hybrid model has also prepared our students and staff well for a temporary move to remote learning. We work with amazingly resilient students, staff and families. 

“While we are disappointed to be moving to a two-week remote model, we hope to see everyone again Oct. 21 when we resume face-to-face instruction.”

Also on Tuesday, Wyoming Public Schools shut down its football program for two weeks due to positive COVID-19 test results. The suspension will cancel varsity and junior varsity games the next two weekends, with practices set to resume Oct. 19.

“Making a decision in the best interest of our students and staff was our primary focus,” said Superintendent Craig Hoekstra in a press release, noting the decision was made in partnership with the Kent County Health Department. 

In a related issue, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon Tuesday issued an executive order requiring schools to notify their communities of probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases within 24 hours. Gordon also reinstated an order that masks be worn in most schools, following a Michigan Supreme Court decision preventing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from unilaterally declaring or extending states of emergency.

Beth Heinen Bell contributed to this story 

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers Rockford and Grand Rapids. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.

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