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COAL CITY – Four positive COVID-19 cases were reported in students at Coal City High School on Tuesday. It was the fourth case that caused concern, Superintendent Kent Bugg said, and as a result, the high school will move to fully remote learning for two weeks.
Bugg said the first three cases that were reported were able to be proved to have not been in contact with one another at the school. The fourth, however, was a person who was in close contact with one of the three, and therefore, it was possible that the transmission of the virus occurred at the school.
When the school learned two cases possibly could have been connected with each other within the school, administrators immediately contacted the Grundy County Health Department to seek guidance on how to proceed.
After consulting with the GCHD and deferring to Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines, it was recommended that Coal City High School shut down through Sept. 29, with a return to in-person learning Sept. 30.
Bugg said the four other schools in the district that cover pre-K through eighth grade will remain open for in-person learning.
“We have had some positive cases at the other schools, but they are easier to isolate,” Bugg said. “Once you get into high school, you can’t keep them isolated because the students travel to different classrooms.”
In a letter to faculty and staff Wednesday morning, Bugg wrote the following:
“At the pre-K [through] 8 level, our schedule allows for the students to remain in their cohort group for the majority of the school day. Due to the dynamics of a high school schedule, these cohort groups are not possible. We can have multiple positive COVID cases at the pre-K [through] 8 level and most likely keep those buildings open because it is much easier to isolate the issue due to the cohort groups. What happened Tuesday at the high school was that we had four positive cases come in in one day. We were still on solid ground after the first three cases because we could show that there was no close contact at school, which meant the transmission of the virus didn’t happen at school. The fourth case that came in late Tuesday afternoon was from a student who had already been identified as being in close contact with another positive student while at school. This meant that there was the possibility of virus transmission at school. What exacerbated this issue was that the high school administration, through contact tracing, had identified 17 other students who were in “close contact” with the positive cases from earlier in the day. Because there was the possibility that the virus transmission happened at school between two students, those other close contacts have to now be considered potential carriers as well.”
Close contact is defined by the IDPH as being withing 6 feet of a positive case for 15 minutes.
“Because those other close contacts travel throughout the building, that puts the entire building at risk of creating an outbreak. It is for that reason that the GCHD recommended closing to in-person learning for 14 days,” Bugg said in the letter.
Bugg is hopeful that this situation is just a small bump in the road back to a normal schedule.
“We are hoping that this is a temporary setback,” he said. “We want to wait two weeks and let things settle down and hopefully get back to having the high school students in the building again.”