John VanWagoner


TRAVERSE CITY — Cases of COVID-19 at the school level are slowing down, but they are not stopping.

Nearly a month after area and state school districts experienced a sharp spike in cases among students, fewer positives are being announced.

The increase both pre and post spring break forced some districts, including Traverse City Area Public Schools, to shift teaching and learning to virtual at the secondary level.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also called for high schools to pause in-person education for two weeks at the time.

TCAPS reported 22 cases in the last 10 days. That number was 32 two weeks ago.

Superintendent John VanWagoner said the district has just two active cases, however. At last report, less than 200 students currently were in quarantine. That number was north of 1,000 a month ago.

“That’s still a significant number,” VanWagoner said.

Cases are down across Grand Traverse County, but that doesn’t mean VanWagoner is happy because the pandemic continues to “disrupt education.”

“We have these situations that continue to make things difficult for us,” he said. “Until (COVID-19) is eradicated and a part of history, I will not feel comfortable.”

Weekly testing of student-athletes continues at TCAPS. VanWagoner said the number of positive cases among the nearly 500 student-athletes remains low.

“It really pays off for our kids who are athletes to remain vigilant and follow all of the protocols,” he said.

Other districts announcing cases in the last two weeks include Benzie Central, Elk Rapids, Forest Area, Frankfort, Glen Lake, Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Mancelona, Northport — the district’s first since November — and Suttons Bay.

Although the majority of cases remain at the high school level, officials are reporting a slight uptick in cases at the elementary level. TCAPS announced two school-associated cases each at Blair, Cherry Knoll and Long Lake elementary schools and single cases at Courtade, Traverse Heights and Glenn Loomis within the last 14 days. GTACS, Frankfort, Mancelona and Elk Rapids also announced elementary cases in that timeframe.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 11 new outbreaks at elementary schools in addition to the more than 60 ongoing outbreaks. Frankfort Elementary was one of the schools listed as ongoing with 10 cases.

Andrew Waite, adolescent health supervisor for the Grand Traverse County Health Department, said community spread likely is to blame for the school-associated cases, including those at the elementary level. Cases peaked right after spring break, Waite said.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of family units are getting ill,” he said. “That tends to be their highest risk environment.”

High schools still on the ongoing outbreak list include Traverse City West, Traverse City Central, Leland, Frankfort, St. Mary’s, Benzie Central, Glen Lake, Manton, Mesick and Interlochen Center for the Arts. West Middle School is also an ongoing outbreak site.

“We’re always keeping an eye on (the numbers), but there doesn’t seem to be any trends regarding schools or being in person that are concerning to us,” Waite said.

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