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High school, Freshman Center closed for two weeks after virus outbreak

Health department recommends action to stop spread of COVID-19

Rockford High School and the Freshman Center closed today for two weeks after 17 students in grades 9-12 tested positive for COVID-19. 

The schools will return to virtual learning through Oct. 23, Superintendent Michael Shibler announced on the district website. The students who have tested positive have been placed in isolation, and 397 students, among about 2,500 total in grades 9-12, have been quarantined because of close contact with those tested positive, Shibler said. A couple of staff members have also tested positive, he said.

Michael Shibler

Shibler took the action upon the strong recommendation of the Kent County Health Department, after Joann Hoganson, KCHD director of community wellness, called him Saturday, Oct. 10. She said top KCHD staff unanimously judged closing the schools will stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as it did earlier this fall at Caledonia High School, which closed for two weeks after five students and one staff member tested positive, Shibler said.   

“I obviously am going to do the right thing,” Shibler said this morning. “My priority from day one back in March was the safety of students and staff, and people who enter the schools from our community, and I’ll continue to do that.” 

Rockford’s was the second Kent County public school closing in a week; Lowell Middle School closed Oct. 7 for two weeks due to an outbreak among staff. 

Remote Elementary Classrooms, Too  

There has also been an uptick in cases at some Rockford elementary schools. At Meadow Ridge, Roguewood, Cannonsburg and Belmont schools, one classroom at each school has been put on remote instruction for 14 days, Shibler said. 

Students at Rockford High and Freshman Center will use the same remote instructional model that all Rockford students received for the first 12 days of the school year, Shibler said. Thanks to that earlier experience, he added, the district has been able to “adjust and improve the process” with “more robust” instruction. Teachers will teach from their classrooms. 

The district is taking many measures to protect students and staff, Shibler stressed. Those include requiring masks on buses and in school, hand sanitizers in every classroom, and students in grades 6-12 wiping down their desks every hour. The district also expects to have an agreement soon with a company to provide test results within 24 hours rather than having to wait three to five days, he said.

“Rockford Public Schools are committed to creating a safe environment for our students,” Shibler said. “We are following all the protocols that have been established by the health experts. We will continue to ask parents to partner with our schools and support our schools in our efforts so we can reduce the spread of COVID.” 

CONNECT 

Rockford Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers series and issues stories for all districts. 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

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