Mary Morgan Elementary School in Byron is temporarily ceasing in-person instruction for two weeks beginning “in response to increased COVID-19 cases and quarantines, a press release from School District Superintendent Buster Barton said Oct. 5.
Students who attend Byron Middle School and Byron High School are not affected by the temporary shutdown. The only students transitioning from in-person instruction to remote learning are elementary school students.
“We had three confirmed positive cases and dozens of quarantines last week at Mary Morgan Elementary School,” Barton wrote in the release. “Our hope was to avoid a temporary shutdown, but on Monday afternoon, we received new data from the Ogle County Health Department indicating increased symptomatic students traced back to the original area of concern.”
The district felt the “adaptive pause” to ensure that in-person instruction can be offered as long as possible during the pandemic. During the closure the school will be conducting additional cleaning and disinfecting.
The school district and the OCHD are asking families to limit interaction outside of the home and to monitor students’ symptoms closely.
“OCHD has been working closely with the Byron School District since school has resumed this year,” OCHD Public Health Administrator Kyle Auman said. “The district has been doing a great job attempting to isolate individual situations to keep students and staff safe. We believe that a two-week adaptive pause to in-person learning is necessary to ensure that we control viral spread within the schools.”
Auman said the OCHD is in close contact with the schools every day. In the case of Mary Morgan elementary, there were potential exposures in multiple classrooms, he said. This was the first COVID-19-related closure of a school in the county. OCHD recommended the pause to “burn out” the virus, Auman said.
An uptick in cases in recent weeks in the community as a whole, as well as businesses and patrons defying the state’s recent mitigation, have Auman and the OCHD concerned for area schools.
“It’s a large concern,” Auman said. “It creates a lot more work for us with contact tracing. There’s exponential growth. Knowing there’s significant spread locally, it’s certainly a concern. It could get out of our control. The defiance in the community, it’s a challenge.”
The district will be implemented a remote learning training day on Oct. 6. All in-person students at Mary Morgan Elementary are scheduled to return to school for in-person instruction on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Barton said he understands the shutdown will cause families to be inconvenienced, but he believes it’s the best long-term solution.
“We appreciate the support from our families and community while we navigate this challenging time,” Barton said.