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Local COVID-19

Masks required as Crescent Elementary sees rise in cases, masks still optional in rest of district

School District of Rhinelander

Crescent Elementary School will require staff and students to wear masks for the next two weeks in an attempt to limit the spread COVID-19.

The school went from having six confirmed cases of COVID Tuesday to 11 by Wednesday afternoon. That’s when the School District of Rhinelander made the call to require masks for the next two weeks.

So far this school year, masks have been optional throughout the district.

Superintendent Eric Burke said a team of staff and outside medical professionals help monitor cases within the district.

“That’s a big part of it, us watching every day where we’re going. If we see a rise than we would add that strategy to it. We’re fortunate, knock on wood, as of this morning in our other elementary schools we have zero positive cases. The middle school is low, the high school is low in comparison as far as size. We’re in a pretty good place. But again, we’ll watch it every day,” said Burke.

As of Monday, the high school had eight positive cases. The middle school had two. 64 students district wide were quarantined due to being identified as close contacts.

“The one good thing with most the middle schoolers and high schoolers is they’ve had an opportunity to be vaccinated and that plays into our decision with what’s going on,” said Burke. “The elementary haven’t had an opportunity to be vaccinated so we’re more apt to make a change for the mask requirement at the elementary school level.”

Burke believes other mitigation efforts like on-site testing, social distancing, and contact tracing are working to help limit the spread of COVID.

“Our nurses, I have to give them tons of credit, they’re working seven days a week sometimes on contact tracing so that we can have that need to be quarantined that are out,” said Burke.

COVID-19 testing at the School District of Rhinelander is now in its second week. Testing is available outside the Hodag Dome for staff, students, and their families.

It’s run by an outside company that’s paid for by the state.

“Before this opened up, especially here in the north, there was not as much access to testing. That’s been working pretty well,” said Burke. “The company itself, they’re not our employees, they’re working out some kinks, but overall, it’s giving our families and our staff and our students some more access to testing.”

Burke said the number of students that contract COVID from within the school versus out in the community also factors into their decisions.

Federal, state, and local health guidelines recommend masks in schools.

After having to close due to a high number of COVID cases within schools, both the Chequamegon and Crandon Schools Districts are now requiring masks.

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