Willoughby-Eastlake schools eyeing Oct. 26 reopening after COVID cluster throughout district

Willoughby-Eastlake schools eyeing Oct. 26 reopening after COVID cluster throughout district

EASTLAKE, Ohio (WOIO) - After a cluster of COVID-19 cases throughout the district, officials at Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools are re-evaluating their protocols, while hoping to re-open schools before the end of this month.

As 19 News reported this weekend, all buildings were shut down in the wake of nearly a dozen cases and hundreds of students and staff being exposed to the virus.

The district began transitioning all 13 schools to virtual learning on Saturday.

“This might be one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever been a part of making,” said Superintendent Steve Thompson. “Very heavy decision to make.”

“There are families that are so severely negatively impacted by the reality we’re not in school,” he added.

While praising the Board of Education and all schools for implementing health protocols prior to the year, Thompson acknowledged action needed to be taken.

“If we don’t get a handle on this, it’s going to be a much more difficult journey a month of two down the road,” he said at a Tuesday news conference.

He said there have been 11 positive cases throughout the district, almost all of them in students.

The cases are spread out almost evenly across all schools, suggesting there haven’t been outbreaks yet at any particular building.

That falls in line with the district’s contract tracing, which Thompson said reveals the infections likely occurred outside of school buildings.

“Our protocols in our schools work if we could stop the exposure outside of school,” Thompson said. “I don’t think anyone is doing them with malicious intent, but I’d implore people not to put our kids at risk.”

Thompson, two students tested positive after attending a party hosted at a local family’s home.

The district was not able to provide information on how old the students and other attendees were, or what the nature of the party was.

All buildings are being thoroughly cleaned with a target return date of October 26th.

Thompson suggested that goal is to keep parents from making the difficult choices facing parents in many other districts.

“Imagine the agonizing choice of [staying] home with [students] or going to work to put food on the table,” he said. “I don’t enjoy at all being part of putting people in that position.”

As part of pre-existing protocols, activities and sports were temporarily suspended.

The district is allowing each activity to create and submit their own plan for returning to competition.

Thompson confirmed some athletic teams have already been cleared to resume play and/or practice, bases on their self-drawn plans in accordance with district guidelines.

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