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H-PT board hears COVID update

HOUGHTON — Houghton-Portage Township Schools board members received briefings on the district’s COVID response during a board meeting Monday, during which they renewed the district’s COVID learning plan for another month.

Starting Wednesday, all Michigan high schools are required to move to virtual learning for three weeks to reduce the spread of COVID. Younger students have reported lower risk of transmission.

The state began requiring districts to publish COVID numbers online on Oct. 12. Since then, the Houghton-Portage Township has reported 14 positive students, three positive staff or visitors, one probable student and one probable staff or visitor. All but four cases were in the middle school-high school building.

Outside of mandatory remote instruction, the district will continue to offer a mix of virtual and in-person instruction.

Over the past month, schools mostly reported two-way interaction percentages in the mid- to high-90s, Superintendent Doreen Kramer said. The statistic covers attendance both virtually and in-person.

Monday, students met with teachers and other staff to go over what will be needed for the next three weeks.

“We had a two-week shutdown, and we had the three days when the high school was also remote, so we pretty much have that routine down,” she said.

Kramer thanked parents, who she said had been good about letting the district know when their child is being tested or has been in close contact with someone who tested positive.

“When our parents do that, it really helps, because the kids stay home and therefore they’re not in contact with other students in the classroom,” she said.

Kramer also thanked the principals, who have to look at class lists and seating charts after someone tests positive and make phone calls to close contacts.

“It’s not something you can wait on until Monday morning, because you can’t have those students return back to school on Monday,” she said. “So our principals are really doing some extra duties on the weekends.”

The task is tougher in high school, Middle School Principal Julie Filpus said. The highest number of close contacts from a positive case at the middle school is 11, she said. In the high school, it can be from 20 to 25 students.

“I was telling a teacher today that ‘I can’t wait for a time when your seating chart is not important to me anymore,'” she said.

In the elementary school, reports included the school’s Halloween parade, shown over Facebook Live this year due to COVID concerns. More than 700 people watched the stream, said Elementary Principal Anders Hill.

Instead of a live performance, the middle school holiday concert will be recorded for parents to view.

Principals reported good turnout for the virtual parent-teacher conferences.

The district prepared 3,000 meals for pickup for students Monday, said food services director Shelby Turnquist. A number of people have also responded for a Wednesday pickup for meals for high school students, she said. Meals will also be available for pickup during Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks.

“My staff has really stepped up and gone above and beyond, especially when we had days that we were short half our staff,” she said.

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