Talawanda Middle School (TMS) will be closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week due to increased COVID-19 cases, according to an email sent to parents on Tuesday, Jan. 11. The email, sent by Talawanda Superintendent Edward Theroux, explained almost 30% of TMS’s students were absent Tuesday.
Theroux wrote there were also 14 TMS staff members absent and the lack of available substitutes meant the school could not operate safely. Talawanda reported 102 absences Monday, Jan. 10 and 207 Tuesday, Jan. 11.
“We continue to see children who are sick, have symptoms, are positive, and live with family members who exhibit one of these conditions that are still choosing to come to school,” Theroux wrote. “This must stop in order to be able to achieve our goal of keeping our schools open to in-person learning.”
Other schools in Talawanda have lower absence rates: Talawanda High School, Bogan Elementary, and Marshall Elementary each report a 16% student absenteeism rate while Kramer Elementary has about a 15% rate.
Middle school students will attend class asynchronously on Wednesday, Jan. 12. On Thursday and Friday, students are expected to attend remotely. Students can find Zoom schedules in their Google classrooms by 4 p.m. Wednesday.
All extracurricular activities are canceled or postponed until Jan. 17.
Students are expected to return in person Tuesday, Jan. 18.
On Monday, Jan. 10, Talawanda’s School Board held its first meeting of the year. During the meeting, community members brought up concerns over the lack of firm masking policy at Talawanda.
Currently, Talawanda does not require masks but “strongly recommends” masks for staff and students. The school board did not change this policy during its meeting.
During the meeting, Theroux recommended vaccination and wearing KN95 masks.
“We could go back to a mask mandate if our numbers increase or continue to grow,” Theroux said. “It’s a problem and we may go back to that.”
In the email sent to parents, Theroux said he hopes to only see this spike for the next two weeks as students and staff may have caught the virus over the holidays.
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“As stated at last night’s Board of Education meeting,” Theroux wrote in the email, “I will implement measures such as remote learning, short/long term closings, mask mandates, or other options if we cannot operate our schools safely, see unsafe spread of COVID-19 in our buildings, or have absenteeism rates over 20%.”
As of 4 p.m., Jan. 11, Talawanda has not changed its mask policy.