TRAVERSE CITY — The return to lunch at the kitchen table, recess outside and only seeing teachers on a screen is back for most students in the Grand Traverse region and the state.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement of new public health orders Sunday moved high school teaching and learning to the virtual realm for the next three weeks. Whitmer left the option to keep kindergarten through eighth grade open for in-person instruction, but several area school districts chose to shut down completely as positive cases of COVID-19 and related quarantines increase.
Kingsley Area Schools announced shortly after Whitmer’s orders that all K-12 buildings will close for the next three weeks. The district still is dealing with quarantines stemming from an outbreak last week that saw a member of the high school football coaching staff, two middle schoolers, two high schoolers and a teacher test positive for the virus.
Superintendent Keith Smith said the entire seventh-grade teaching staff is in quarantine. He said all of the eighth-grade teachers could also be quarantined, but he has yet to hear from health department officials.
Smith estimated 30 middle school students as well as three bus drivers, two elementary school teachers and the entire high school football team are currently quarantined. Smith said he received information Tuesday that the football team is likely to be designated as an outbreak by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Smith said he is waiting on the number of high school students and staff in quarantine.
Traverse City Area Public Schools, which reported a positive case at Silver Lake Elementary on Tuesday, scheduled a 6 p.m. board of education meeting Wednesday to discuss how TCAPS administration, staff and students will move forward following the new COVID-19 restrictions.
The meeting will take place virtually and can be accessed at www.TCAPS.net/board.
Trustees will discuss the district’s plan to move all K-12 staff and students to remote learning through Dec. 8 as well as any alterations to the TCAPS COVID-19 Preparedness and Response plan.
Numbers updated Monday showed nine cases at Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools — five at Traverse City St. Francis High School, two at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School and two at Immaculate Conception Elementary School. Those numbers are cumulative since the beginning of the school year. Fifteen middle school students are also in quarantine.
Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District reported Saturday a positive COVID case at the district’s administration building. TBAISD officials chose to move the Career-Tech Center to a hybrid model of in-person and remote instruction last week.
Elk Rapids Public Schools experienced an outbreak at both Cherryland Middle School and Elk Rapids High School.
Superintendent Julie Brown sent letters to families Sunday reporting three positive cases at each site. Elk Rapids Board of Education trustees met for an emergency meeting Monday night, and all sixth- through 12th-grade students began virtual learning Tuesday. Lakeland and Mill Creek elementary schools shifted to remote learning Wednesday.
Alba Public Schools remains one of the few schools not to report a positive COVID-19 case in its students and staff. Buckley Community Schools also has no active cases.
The Greenspire School escaped the first part of the school year without a positive case. Head of School Robert Walker said the K-8 school shifted to a hybrid model in the fifth week and will go full remote beginning Thursday.
Walker said the decision was made because of the rising community cases as well as a growing shortage of staff, although he clarified the shortage is of teachers with children in other school districts that have moved remote.
Benzie County Central Schools has been COVID free since its outbreak in the high school three weeks ago during which 14 students and staff tested positive, including seven reported positives in one day. Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools remains at eight positive cases, and the district’s elementary and high schools will continue virtual learning through Nov. 25.
Mancelona Public Schools is also shifting all K-12 buildings to remote learning until Wednesday, Dec. 9. Superintendent Jeff DiRosa reported the district’s first positive case Monday. Bellaire Public Schools also reported its first confirmed case. Suttons Bay Schools reported two more positive cases within the middle and high schools and is now up to six confirmed cases.
Northport Superintendent Neil Wetherbee hoped his plan to move to remote instruction beginning Nov. 30 until Jan. 18 would pan out. That won’t be the case.
Wetherbee wanted to use the two weeks to help staff, students and families prepare for the shift. Wetherbee said in a letter the entire district will move to virtual learning 12 days ahead of schedule on Wednesday. Northport has reported just two positive cases since the beginning of the school year.