Cedarburg parents blame district's COVID-19 protocol for elementary school outbreak

Thorson Elementary School
Posted at 5:07 PM, Oct 22, 2021

CEDARBURG — Some parents in Cedarburg are frustrated the district does not require students to quarantine if they are in close contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus.

Several parents believe the district’s quarantine policy is partially to blame for an outbreak at an elementary school. The district requires students who have tested positive to isolate at home, but students who were deemed to be in close contact with a positive case have the choice whether or not not to attend school.

Cedarburg School District’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 16 students at Thorson Elementary School have tested positive within the past 10 days. Casey Knapp says half of those cases are in her daughter’s third grade class.

"We pulled our daughter I think after the second or third notification, because we found out just through the parents' network that it was one of her best friends who had tested positive unfortunately, despite best efforts to wear masks and things like that,” she said. “And then since that time as you point out there have been about 5 other cases."

When it comes to schools, the Washington Ozaukee Health Department recommends students in close contact with a positive case stay home for 10 days to monitor symptoms. Cedarburg’s school board decided to make it voluntary for students.

The district’s website says, "There will be limited internal modified contact tracing, due to the unique size of each school, school schedules, and limited cohorting."

Knapp says the only information she’s received from the district are emails notifying her of positive cases in her child’s grade level.

"We're talking about kids who are not eligible for vaccines yet, and I think it's important for the district to get parents as much information as they possibly can. And they simply have not been doing that,” she said.

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Knapp says parents who voluntarily quarantine their kids are met with another problem. The district does not offer a virtual learning option this school year.

"In my opinion, the writing was on the wall and unfortunately we didn't want to get to this place where we said, ‘we told you so,’” she said. “We've gotten there in my opinion."

But other parents including Nicole Stein say they fully support the district’s policies, which leave decisions like masking and quarantining up to parents.

"COVID's here to stay unfortunately and it's kind of a part of life now. So I'm fine with the way they're doing everything,” Stein said.

Neighboring school districts have varying quarantine policies for those in close contact of a positive case.

Similar to Cedarburg, the Grafton School District lets families determine whether their children should self-quarantine.

The Mequon Theinsville School District says when the county’s transmission rate is considered ‘high’ like it is now, close contacts within three feet of a positive case are required to quarantine.

The Port Washington Saukville School District says close contacts should quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated or wore a mask at the time or exposure.

Stein says even if she were notified that her child was in close contact with a classmate who tested positive, she would send her kid to school unless they start to show symptoms.

"At some point, you're going to run into it,” Stein said. “Your child is going to end up getting it."

District officials say they have increased social distancing requirements at Thorson Elementary School and large group activities have been paused.

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