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COVID-19 forces remote learning for Thunder Bay students

News File Photo Students board the buses at the end of the school day at Thunder Bay Junior High School last year.

The spread of COVID-19 among teachers and staff at Thunder Bay Junior High School in Alpena has forced the school to transition to remote learning beginning Tuesday and lasting until at least the end of the week.

Numerous students who have had close contact with the teachers who have COVID-19, or had close contact with someone infected, are also in quarantine, Alpena Public Schools Superintendent David Rabbideau said.

He said the school system did its best to keep the school open for students, but finding enough substitute teachers to fill the voids wasn’t possible.

“We do have staff that have COVID, and a variety of other illnesses,” he said. “We did everything in our power to cover these positions, but because of a lack of substitute teachers, we just weren’t able to staff the building today.”

Rabbideau said the school knows when teachers who have COVID-19, or in quarantine, should return to work, but he said determining when employees who suffer from other illnesses return is up in the air because there is no diagnosis or quarantine timelines associated with them.

Because of that, some teachers could be back sooner than expected, while some miss more time than first hoped.

“Those who have COVID have specific dates, while others could be back tomorrow or next week,” he said. “We are evaluating things on a daily basis.”

Rabbideau said a growing number of students are home in quarantine, but only a small number have COVID-19. He said teachers teach six separate classes a day, and in close proximity to hundreds of students, which puts them at risk of exposure when a teacher becomes ill. He said because of that, kids are urged to stay home if they attend a class where a teacher could be infected or in close contact with someone who tested positive .

As of now, there is no plan to have other schools in the district move to remote learning, Rabbideau said. He said although there are a few scattered infections and quarantines, the numbers aren’t as high as those at the junior high school.

“The other schools are holding their own and doing well,” Rabbideau said. “We are seeing cases pop up here and there, but right now we think we can keep operating.”

Northeast Michigan has seen a significant increase in the amount of COVID-19 infections in the last month and people are urged to follow guidelines set by local health officials.

On Monday, District Health Department No. 4 issued a press release reminding people how and when to quarantine if they are exposed to the disease, or contracted it.

When a person tests positive for COVID-19 they should isolate immediately and remain in isolation until the following are met:

∫ If you have a fever, 24 hours have passed since the fever has stopped without the use of fever reducing medications.

∫ Symptoms are improving.

∫ Ten days have passed since you began showing symptoms or from the date a COVID-19 test was conducted.

∫ A person who tests positive should also work to notify their close contacts in order to allow them to begin to quarantine. Close contacts are defined as anyone within six feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 minutes in a 24- hour period.

If you are a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual, it is recommended you quarantine for 10 days after your last contact with the individual. Once returned to normal activities after 10 days, it is recommended to wear a mask in public settings for 4 days. If you have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days, you do not need to quarantine, however, monitor for symptoms.

Health officials recommend getting vaccinated to help prevent serious illness or death from COVID-19 and to limit the spread of it. Wearing a facemask while indoors in public places and in large crowds is also recommended.

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