Schools may be safest place for kids

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

McCOOK, Neb. — The COVID-19 Risk Dial remains at orange (elevated) for McCook Public Schools, although the risk dial for the community is higher.

That’s because the public school system in McCook has its own risk dial, under the guidance of the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department, said McCook Public Schools Superintendent Grant Norgaard.

On Nov. 16, the risk dial for communities in Southwest Nebraska was increased from orange to red by the SWPHD, meaning residents are at severe risk of getting the virus.

For now, the virus is not spreading as rampantly in the schools as it is in the community, Norgaard said.

With the infection rate at the school lower than the rate in the community, “We are comfortable at orange for now,” he said. “In fact, schools may be the safest place in the community right now.”

Since October, students and staff at the McCook Public School district have been wearing masks, when the SWNPHD risk dial for the community changed from moderate (yellow) to high (orange).

Teachers and other staff members have been sanitizing between classes and lunch breaks, Norgaard said, and some teachers have been doing double duty by teaching some students online as well as those in the classroom.

“That makes for extra planning and they’ve been doing an amazing job,” Norgaard said. He added that an item may be brought before the McCook School Board at the December meeting to add more scheduled time in the second semester for teachers to use. McCook Public Schools currently dismiss students at 2 p.m. each Wednesday, while teachers stay at the school for planning and other work.

A severe outbreak at the school and too many teachers absent with the virus or in quarantine would be some of the factors for the school to increase its risk dial to red, Norgaard said. At that point, parents would be notified and changes would be implemented, he said, that could include cohort classes, when groups of students attend schools on alternating days.

As of Tuesday, there are nine total active cases in the school district and 127 in quarantine, out of 1,425 of staff and students, according to the McCook Public Schools Covid-19 Tracker.

Those in quarantine are students and staff who came in direct contact with an infected person or are showing symptoms similar to COVOD-19. Those showing symptoms might be showing symptoms caused by some other common illness or condition. McCook Elementary reported the highest number of those in quarantine at 57, with no active cases and seven recovered cases.

The COVID-19 status of other McCook Public schools in the district are:

McCook High School: 37 in quarantine, five active cases, 22 recovered cases.

McCook Junior High: 19 in quarantine, four active cases, 11 recovered.

Central Elementary: 14 in quarantine, no active cases, two recovered

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