Students at 3 SE Wisconsin schools test positive for COVID-19

School districts in southeastern Wisconsin are responding to confirmed COVID-19 cases this week after learning of students who tested positive for the virus.

Hillcrest Elementary School in Waukesha on Thursday identified its first case of COVID-19 since classes began on Sept. 1.

"We didn't want to have to do this this early. But we did anticipate this would be coming," Joe Koch, deputy superintendent for the School District of Waukesha, said.

Koch said a third-grade student at Hillcrest tested positive on Labor Day. Now, all third-grade students at the school, where instruction is typically held in-person full time, will switch to virtual learning until next week. 

"We've hired a COVID nurse for the district and a team of contact tracers," said Koch. "Through that process, it was determined that there was just a lot of interaction between students in the classroom and then across the two classrooms at the third-grade level."

In a 5 to 4 vote, the school board in Waukesha decided last month to go with a hybrid approach. The plan sent elementary school students back to school five days a week -- with the option for parents to choose virtual learning.

Hillcrest Elementary School in Waukesha

Hillcrest Elementary School in Waukesha

The Whitefish Bay School District is also keeping five middle school students home for two weeks after one tested positive on Wednesday.

"I think every time you have a positive case you pause and you say, OK, is this the right decision?" said Whitefish Bay School District Superintendent John Thomsen.

Thomsen said he credits the district's hybrid learning model for helping to limit the number of people the infected student interacted with.

"Our classroom size is much smaller and our desks are spread out. So that helps us mitigating risk. And we have seating charts," Thomsen said.

With concerns that things could get worse before they get better, educators are urging families to also do their part to keep schools open. 

"The best learning is the face-to-face learning. If we can maintain that with our students, we will maintain that as long as possible," said Koch.

The superintendent in Whitefish Bay said one more confirmed case, unrelated to the middle school case, was just identified. However, he would not disclose which school that case was at.

Whitefish Bay Middle School

Whitefish Bay Middle School

On Wednesday, an email was sent to parents and guardians of students at St. Catherine's High School notifying them that a student there had tested positive for the virus.

The school said it is working actively with the Racine Public Health Department to quarantine the students and those who they may have come in contact with. 

No staff members came in contact with the student, the school said, and staff have already sanitized all rooms, offices and common areas. 

The Greendale School District is also responding to a positive test result, announcing Thursday that a person at Highland View Elementary School tested positive.

Students and staff that were identified as close contacts to the person who tested positive have been advised to quarantine for two weeks, and the classroom will transition to fully-digital learning during that time.

The district did not specify whether the person who tested positive was a student or a staff member.

Additional cleaning and disinfecting is being conducted at the school.

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