Weekly COVID Update-Network Is Back Up!

Weekly COVID Update-Network Is Back Up!
Posted on 11/04/2020

Hello SDMA Families and Staff.

There is no way to sugarcoat it.....it has been a very difficult week in the SDMA. The untimely technology outage and an increase in COVID cases and exclusions has stretched staffing and services in the SDMA to the max. Not only do we have a team of technicians continuing to rebuild and reconfigure our virtual server, but we have also created a temporary physical server to get networks up and running tonight. After overnighting hardware and working around the clock for several days, the wireless internet system and most network services have now been restored. There simply is not enough gratitude that can be expressed for the great job that SDMA teachers, the technology team, and district staff members have done in the face of such adversity, but it is clear that the circumstances in our schools over the past week are not sustainable.

The SDMA continues to be in close communication with KT Gallagher and the Dunn County Health Department. As can be seen in the cumulative and daily case graphs, the number of county COVID-19 cases continues to increase across all age demographics. These graphs do not include the huge spike from today that included 92 new cases in Dunn County. With a surge of COVID cases, contact tracing efforts in the county have been delayed, but cases related to our schools are still being prioritized. Between the health department and the SDMA school nurses, effective contact tracing is still being performed for cases associated with the school district. This helps to stop the spread in our schools, but an increasing number of cases in the community will still impact students and staff members being excluded if gatherings are happening outside of the district (like much of what has been reported from Halloween weekend). 

While most new cases in the SDMA are still being linked back to family exposures or other gatherings/activities outside of the school district, there was one classroom in the school district that needed to be closed this past week. This classroom closure was due to a potential exposure in one of the specialized programs at MHS that is not as conducive to consistent strict adherence to some of the mitigation strategies that have proved effective in classrooms.  

Despite the challenges of this pandemic, the ability of our school district to employ strict mitigation measures has allowed the SDMA to continue with the in-person learning environment up to this point. Unfortunately, due to a surge of cases in the community, the district is on the brink of having to consider moving some instruction to the virtual environment. We will be tracking cases closely over the next week, and if current trends do not improve, it is very possible that the high school may need to move to the virtual environment the week of November 16. If the virtual learning environment is needed at the high school, it is anticipated that the building will be kept open for staff, students without internet access, students with special needs, and students whose parents are frontline workers in the medical field, etc. 

The data listed on the Dunn County Dashboard was updated today, and you can see that there is now a cumulative total of 1,376 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Dunn County (up from 1,066 last week) and 11,879 negative test results (up from 11,160 last week). The seven-day moving average for Dunn County is now at 33.7 cases per day, or 74.3/100,000 people (up from 22.7 cases per day or 50.1/100,000 people last week).

Some of the new cases this past week have been students enrolled in the SDMA. There is now a cumulative total of 64 confirmed student cases (up from 39 last week) of COVID-19 reported since September 1 with the following breakdown:

  • Menomonie High School-    42 (up from 24 last week)
  • Menomonie Middle School- 14  (up from 10)
  • Menomonie Elem. Schools-  8  (up from 5)

Many of the student COVID-19 cases in the SDMA have already been deemed "recovered", and a number of students have been released from the mandatory isolation period. With 2,827 students participating in the in-person instructional model, the SDMA currently has 24 active student cases- 0.85% [up from 14 (0.50%) last week] with the following breakdown:

  • Menomonie High School-    17 (up from 7 last week) 
  • Menomonie Middle School-   5 (same as 5 last week) 
  • Menomonie Elem. Schools-   2 (same as 2 last week) 

There have been a total of 28 staff cases in the SDMA since the start of the school year (up from 11 last week), 7 of which have been deemed "recovered", so there are currently 21 active staff cases in the SDMA. Including the cases and other staff members that need to quarantine for a variety of reasons, approximately 8% of the 565 district staff members are currently excluded. The district is doing everything we can to cover these staff absences, but with sub pools so small, the district is on the verge of not being able to staff all classrooms if these trends continue.

Due to the district's network outage, data related to the number of the students in the SDMA excluded from school this week due to close contacts, symptoms, or other COVID-19 concerns is not available, but it is clear that trends have increased over last week's measure of 5.80%. There have not been many exclusions for new cases related to close contact in school, but exclusions for contacts out of school are beginning to add up.

It has already been shared that schools may need to close if 20% of students are excluded from school for a sustained amount of time, but the district's ability to staff buildings and programs could also require a school closure. This message is not good news for our school district, but we will continue to do what we can to provide services to students and families during this very difficult time. Families can partner with the SDMA in trying to keep schools open by Washing Up, Backing Up, and Masking Up, and most of all, not gathering with others outside of your household. Please also consider taking advantage of the new free testing program offered at UW-Stout.

Thank you.

Joe Zydowsky