GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Superintendents across West Michigan are calling on their respective communities to be more diligent when it comes to COVID-19 precautions, warning many schools may have to go virtual if the positivity trends continue.
Forty-six superintendents from across Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties signed a letter encouraging everyone to follow the basic guidelines, namely social distancing and wearing masks, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The letter says if the positive case rates continue to rise, more restrictions are likely, including canceling sports and other extra-curricular activities.
“It is our collective responsibility as communities to continue to practice the social distancing and all of the CDC guidelines that have been put forth. Schools have been doing a phenomenal job at that,” said Dr. Brian Davis, superintendent of Holland Public Schools. “But we only have the kids six hours of the day. So the other portion of time, that other 12 to 18 hours, we need to make sure that everything the kids are doing during the day they are also doing when they are at home.”
Coronavirus numbers have been climbing at a varying pace for Kent and Ottawa counties. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the seven-day rolling average for new cases in Kent County is about 174 per million people per day, a figure that has doubled over the last month. In Ottawa County, the seven-day rolling average was in the high 30s in mid-August but is now up to about 143 per million.
Though the numbers have jumped since many students returned to class, health officials say the majority of cases are not connected to schools.
“I firmly believe that schools are one of the safest places to be right now because our procedures and routines are so rigid,” Davis said.
Holland Public Schools has had seven total confirmed COVID-19 cases so far this school year. Davis credited the small number to teachers and support staff doing their part to follow cleaning procedures and protocols. But 207 students and 17 staff are currently in quarantine due to potential exposures and a staff shortage may force schools to close before the positive case rate.
“I have staff who are on quarantine because they were exposed to somebody else outside of the school community. They were exposed to somebody at a wedding. They were exposed to somebody at another social gathering. They were exposed as a result of their spouse being exposed at work,” Davis said. “It becomes really difficult to do school.”