District cites high number of quarantined students

Corunna Public Schools this week instituted a mask policy for students because of soaring numbers of students who must quarantine for COVID-19 exposure.

CORUNNA — Corunna Public Schools this week instituted a mask policy for students because of soaring numbers of students who must quarantine for COVID-19 exposure.

According to a letter sent home to parents Sunday, there were 42 middle school and 56 high school students required to quarantine because they were close contacts.

According to the district’s website, since Oct. 14, the district has seen 23 cases among students at Elsa Meyer, the middle school and high school, as well as one case by a staff member.

The district lists 43 “current active” cases — 27 at the high school.

Superintendent John Fattal, in his letter, said the district doesn’t have the staff to maintain face-to-face instruction and conduct contact tracing and testing.

“We have prided ourselves on being able to prioritize face-to-face instruction and provide as much ‘normalcy’ for our students as possible in the past 18 months,” Fattal wrote. “It has been nearly impossible for administrators and staff to maintain the level of excellence in education our community has come to expect, while simultaneously taking on a large part of the responsibility of keeping everyone at school safe during this COVID pandemic.”

The Shiawassee County Health Department Wednesday announced there now are 718 active cases of COVID-19 in Shiawassee County — the 10th consecutive week active cases have increased. The SCHD reported 213 new cases, the first decrease in a month.

To try to reduce the number of cases in the district, Corunna schools is requiring all students from fourth to 12th grades to wear masks in classrooms and on buses. They don’t have to wear masks in hallways or at lunch.

Preschoolers through third grade don’t have to wear a mask, Fattal said in the letter, because cases in those grades have remained low.

Fattal said the health department informed the district that if everyone is masked, there is no requirement to quarantine anyone regardless of vaccination status, distance or time together.

The only exception is students who are quarantined because of a positive case in the household must remain out of school until the end of their quarantine period.

Perry Public Schools took similar measures previously.

Perry Superintendent Lori Haven said masks are currently optional, but in September, the district required them because of high case numbers. The Perry mandate was for all students and staff in kindergarten through 12th grade to mask regardless of vaccinations in all common areas when in the presence of others, and for those in fifth through eighth grade to mask at all times indoors except when eating.

Starting Sept. 27, the district returned to “strongly recommending” masks with staff required to wear them.

“We had spread at the middle school and a large number of student quarantines, which made it necessary for students to wear face masks to help us mitigate the spread and get our students back to school in person,” Haven said via email. “After reviewing the data weekly, a follow-up communication was sent toward the end of September which moved the middle school students back to mask-optional with the rest of the students in the district.

“Adding the ability to test-to-stay has been very helpful in keeping our students in school while supporting the mitigation of potential spread,” she added.

Perry schools this week reported three confirmed cases at the middle and high schools, as well as 37 students quarantined.

Other school districts say they are not requiring masks for students or staff, except on buses.

“Owosso Public Schools consistent stance on masks is as follows: Masks are not required for students and staff regardless of vaccination status, except on the school bus, per a federal transportation mandate, but they are highly recommended throughout the district,” Superintendent Andrea Tuttle said via email.

“Additionally, Owosso Public Schools, with the support of the Shiawassee County Health Department, has implemented the test to stay program. There is a mask requirement with that program.”

Owosso has six confirmed cases at Central and Bryant elementaries, and the middle and high schools over the past week, as well as 20 quarantined students.

New Lothrop Superintendent Anthony Berthiaume said mask use remains a choice for “families and staff.”

New Lothrop Area Public Schools reported eight cases at the elementary, and jr./sr. high school. No quarantine statistics were listed.

Laingsburg Superintendent Matt Shastal said there is no mask policy in place at Laingsburg Community Schools.

“We are strongly encouraging staff and students to wear one while indoors and social distancing cannot be achieved,” he said via email.

The district reported no new cases over the past week.

Ovid-Elsie Superintendent Ryan Cunningham also said masks are optional for students and staff. As of Oct. 16, they had five new cases and 31 students quarantined.

Durand Superintendent Craig McCrumb said the district has not had any mask mandate at any point this year.

“Philosophically, the administration and board’s position is that at this point in the game, wearing a mask at school should be a parent’s decision, unless required by the state,” he said. “Currently we have a few staff members and some students electing to wear masks and we are very supportive of them. In the end, we are very supportive of mask wearing, but at the same time, believe it should be a parental choice.”

According to the district’s website, there have been no confirmed cases over the past seven days. No quarantine information was listed.

Chesaning Union Schools reported five cases of the virus over the past week, four at Big Rock Elementary and one at the middle school. Byron Area Schools reported three cases at the elementary school Oct. 14. Morrice Area Schools this week reported four student and one staff case involving the elementary and Jr./Sr. High School.

Officials from Morrice, Byron and Chesaning did not respond to emails seeking information about mask policies.

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