COVID-19 hits Manawa School District
Board votes 4-3 to follow county recommendations
By Holly Neumann
A local school board deliberated for more than two hours Sept. 10 on how to handle a covid outbreak within its school district.
As of Sept. 10, four Manawa School District staff members and two students tested positive/probable for COVID-19 and an additional 67 are quarantined.
Initially, the Manawa School Board voted 5-1 against following Waupaca County Public Health’s recommended increase in mitigation strategies.
“I don’t believe we need to go to full masking,” board member Russ Hollman said. “No one has proven to me that it works.”
Staff, community members and one student voiced their concerns in front of the board at the meeting.
“Can you explain to me then how not following the DHS guidelines is a good idea?” Amanda Haack asked.
“It is irresponsible to not take on more mitigation practices to try to stop what is happening,” teacher Michele Koshollek said.
“Manawa is leading the county in cases,” teacher Jill Krause said. “Staff members are filled with anxiety that they may pass the virus on to their own loved ones. We are literally distancing ourselves from our family members while we wait for test results.
“With over 60 students out currently, how can the board honestly continue on the way it is?” she asked. “We are looking at a school shut down at this rate.”
Student Ted Emmert questioned the board’s decision.
“I would like to stay in school as long as possible, even if it means having cohorts again, masking and getting tested,” he said. “I would like the School Board to reconsider their vote.”
Complicating the issue even further is a lack of substitute teachers.
“What happens if we are not masking and we have more people that are out?” elementary school principal Danni Brauer said. “I worry tremendously about this and we are asking for more spreading. When is enough enough? We have to be proactive and keep everyone healthy.”
After further discussion, board member Bobbi Jo Pethke made a motion to vote again on following the recommended increase in mitigation.
Pethke, Russ Johnson, Joanne Johnson and Kerri Jepson voted yes, while Hollman, Sondra Reierson and Pete Griffin voted no.
The following plan took effect Sept. 13 and will be in effect districtwide due to the crossover of staff and students.
The biggest change is that students, staff and guests in all school facilities, events and on school buses will be required to wear a mask/face covering through Friday, Sept. 24.
Medical and religious exemptions will be addressed on an individual basis by the principals in each building.
Additional mitigation strategies
• Use 6-foot distancing to the degree possible.
• Use cohorting of students in grades 4K-8.
• Use assigned seating for high school student classes.
• Continue to promote proper hygiene and facility sanitation.
• Confirm that HVAC ventilation is optimal.
The board will review the mitigation plan in two weeks to determine how to proceed based on the district’s COVID-19 incident rate, along with other factors at that time.
The board also agreed to provide free on-site testing for staff and students and, as long as the district has the resources to do so, their immediate family members, per DHS. This testing will not be available to the immediate public.
The district will also move to a 10/7-day quarantine; 10-day quarantine without testing and seven days after receiving a negative test result on day five or later.