Breaking point: COVID-19 straining area schools

During this pandemic, we are endeavoring to take care of our community. If you have the means to back us through a subscription or a gift subscription for someone else, we appreciate your support.

 

By Jessie Wagoner

McPherson County schools are feeling the strain of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the county. With active case numbers increasing rapidly, the schools are attempting to plan for the future.

 “We are concerned. We have been monitoring COVID numbers closely, and we fear we’re heading towards a staff shortage and quarantine numbers that may result in cancellations of school (and other events) in the next few weeks,” McPherson Public Schools said in a release issued Friday evening. 

The district issued a plea to parents asking them to please do everything possible to keep the students and staff healthy. 

 

“Even if it saves the absence of just one teacher or one student, your actions have a big impact,” the release continued. 

The district is asking for the following: 

  • Wear a mask at all times in school buildings and USD 418 events
  • Practice social distancing when/where possible while attending events 
  • Spectate online if you have even a hint of a symptom or if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 recently 

Here are the USD 418 numbers, as of Friday, January 14, 2022:

  • Cases – 55 (up by 35 from last week – nearly triple)
  • Contacts – 130 (up 98 from last week – more than quadruple)

The information, along with the sharp increase in COVID cases in the county means parents should prepare for the potential of school cancellations due to staff shortages. The district says staff shortages are very real. They may be unable to cover classes and will have to consider canceling school. 

“At this point, we are holding on,” the district said. “If numbers continue climbing, that may change.” 

If school is canceled due to COVID those days will be handled as snow days and communicated to parents in the same way. 

The increasing numbers could also lead to stalled lessons due to students being absent. In several of the district buildings, they have seen an increase in students impacted by the recent COVID cases.  

 

“As long as staffing levels allow, we are able to keep the doors open despite having a large number of students out,” the district said. “However, for classrooms with large numbers of students out, we will change the pace of instruction and not introduce new learning/information with large percentages of students out.” 

Another option being considered by the district is breaking up the calendar by adding professional development days to the calendar. 

Canton-Galva has also notified parents they are exploring options for next week as their case numbers have surged as well. They have canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and  will plan to have students return on Wednesday. 

 

The McPherson County Health Department issued a release on Thursday highlighting the rapidly increasing number of active cases and deaths in the county related to COVID-19. As of Thursday, there were 590 active cases with nine hospitalizations. There have been 11 deaths since Jan. 1 bringing the total number of deaths in McPherson County to 111. 

 

“McPherson County is experiencing extremely high infection rates,” Shalei Shea, Director of the McPherson County Health Department said. “ McPherson County Health Department (MCHD) strongly urges all county residents 2 years of age and above to mask up. We also strongly urge all county residents 5 years of age and above to get vaccinated. If you completed a COVID-19 vaccine series prior to July 2021, you are likely due for a booster dose. Vaccination remains to be our best tool to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death. Our local hospitals, and surrounding hospitals we may normally transfer patients to, are at maximum capacity and response. Please help our healthcare workers and our community by masking up, getting vaccinated and staying home if you’re ill.”