The Atchison County Health Department is reporting a big spike in COVID-19 cases over the weekend and has reported 4 deaths.
The Health Department Department updated cases on Monday morning and reported 30 additional positive cases for a total of 437 and on Wednesday added 23 more cases for a total of 460. As of Wedneday, there are nine currently hospitalized and 86 of those cases are active.
On Wednesday of last week, the Health Department issued an urgent public health release concerning potential COVID-19 exposure if a person visited Pete’s Steakhouse in Atchison between the dates of Tuesday, Sept. 29 and Oct. 4.
According to the statement from the Health Department, current active outbreaks include Benedictine College, Bunge Corp, Maur Hill, Pete’s Steakhouse and Heritage Tractor.
The Health Department is advising local residents call a healthcare provider if experiencing any signs of COVID-19. Symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, loss of smell or loss of taste, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Seemingly several isolated positive COVID-19 cases continue to infiltrate area schools as Maur Hill-Mount Academy and Trinity Lutheran Schools took steps toward an all remote learning mode for a short term.
MH-MA President Phil Baniewicz announced Wednesday, Oct. 14 during the scheduled Fall Break there were seven active COVID cases and 35 persons amid the campus population on quarantine. County health officials are monitoring the cases. Baniewicz explained the predictions are that all in-school classes will resume Monday, Oct. 19. That is if all goes according to the expected releases from quarantine the number of active cases will reduce. Football and cross country sport activities resumed Wednesday. Other athletic teams and activities are still affected by the quarantine and active cases.
Baniewicz credits the Atchison County Health Department staff for their work with MH_MA to accordingly adjust protocols, monitoring and mitigation to lower the spread. The updated plan is currently in place and posted on www.mh-ma.com website.
Due to a sudden outbreak among students, Baniewicz had previously announced Oct. 7 that all learning would be remote until Wednesday, Oct. 21 The interruption also a two-week suspension of activities and sports until that date as well. After numerous students had tested positive early last week and some showed symptoms and were awaiting test results when MH-MA school leaders made their decision.
USD 409 Superintendent Renee Scott reported on Tuesday, Oct. 13 in the district’s weekly report that there were no staff members testing positive for COVID-19 infections. However, two Atchison Elementary staff members are in isolation or quarantine due to a contact tracing.
Zero positive cases concerning pupils at Atchison Elementary, but six pupils are in isolation or quarantine due to contact tracing, Scott reported. One Atchison Middle School student is positively infected and seven students are isolated in quarantine due to contact tracing.
There is one student at Atchison High School who has tested positive with the coronavirus. Contact tracing has prompted quarantine for five students, according to Scott’s weekly report. There are zero student infections at Central School, but two students are in isolation/quarantine based on contact with an infected person.
Superintendent Andrew Gaddis reported one Atchison County Community Junior-Senior High School student tested positive as of Friday morning. There are five ACCJHS students in quarantine for a 14-day period due to direct contact within six feet of an infected person or 10 minutes or longer.
Principal Helen Schwinn, St. Benedict Catholic School reported that an employee had tested positive the first week of October and was in isolation. The employee was cleared to return to work Oct. 13. Another employee tested negative early earlier in the month was quarantined due to close contact with an infected person and is released to come to work this week. There are no other students or staff affected by the coronavirus, Schwinn said. SBCS will be on its regularly scheduled Fall Break for a few days. Classes will resume for Monday, Oct. 19, according to the SBCS calendar.
Benedictine College is reporting there are eight active cases among its total population of 2,505 persons. This reflects 0.3 percent of the population as posted on BC’s website at benedictine.edu/coronavirus/index.
Trinity Lutheran School officials announced via Facebook earlier this week that the school would be utilizing a virtual platform until Monday, Oct. 26 due to some persons impacted by the coronavirus within their school community.
Lopez De Mexico announced Monday that due to an employee illness they would be closed until October 23.
Not all employees were exposed but enough of them who are cooks according to the restaurant’s Facebook post.
“We took the necessary steps to keep safe but one of our employees contacted COVID outside of Lopez and unknowingly exposed some of the kitchen staff,” according to the post. “Let’s hope our practiced safety measures keep the rest of our staff healthy.”
Another post from the restaurant said more precautions will be taken once they reopen.
“I have several employees that either have impaired health issues or lives with someone that does,” according to the post. “They have expressed great concern and I need to be vigilant. Moving forward, I will have some additional practices in place to ensure that we lower any risks of transmitting COVID in hopes of not having to shut down again.”
The enrollment count for the Atchison schools has decreased by more than 100 students according to the news USD 409 Superintendent Renee Scott delivered to school board members when they Monday at the board office.
Scott said the drop in numbers was more than she anticipated, but is aware most other school enrollments statewide have declined in comparison to the counts from 2019-20 school year. COVID-19 is a likely a factor, Scott said.
“A lot of kids have moved away,” Scott said of multiple family displacements she is aware due to job losses and/or other reasons associated with the pandemic. Some students might have transferred to virtual schools accredited to other districts elsewhere, meaning they would be ineligible to be part of the USD 409 enrollment count. As of Sept. 20 the headcount reported to Kansas State Department of Education is 1,615 students and the FTE count reported is 1,585.4 reported for 2020-21 schoolyear. The headcount reflects 112 less students from the previous year and FTE count was down to 101.3 in its comparison. All numbers are subject to audit that usually occurs after the first part of the year. The funding formulas are based on the highest enrolment count from a two-year cycle, Scott said.
The administrative staff from Atchison Elementary School introduced themselves to board members and offered some insight about the new model implemented this year at the facility as one of the scheduled reports highlighted on the agenda.
Head Principal Lisa Pierce, Primary Associate Principal Andrea Coppinger, kindergarten through second-grades, and Intermediate Associate Principal Andrew Lillie, third-through fifth-grade, all agreed the AES mantra newly implement mantra is One Team, One Vision, One Goal. Their offered a power-point presentation indicated 82 percent of the youngsters are on-site learners, one percent are hybrid learners only present in the school two days of the week on Mondays/ Thursdays or Tuesdays/Fridays. About 17 percent of the pupils are remote learners. Social, emotional, and character development are key areas of emphasis for the youngsters that have showing improvements from the previous years. Pierce said that about this time during the previous school year the 129 behavior referrals. Thus far for this schoolyear there have only been 34. The AES administrative trio also showed comparisons in math and reading. They showed videos and highlights from remote learning students.
Pierce said the number of their on-site learning are increasing for various reasons like some parents are more comfortable to send children to school with the current health protocols in place, or some felt it was too challenging to keep up with the remote learning requirements.
In other matters, board members:
Observed a moment of silence in memory of Jason Robert Tomlinson, 47, a USD 409 paraeducator. Tomlinson unexpectedly died Sept. 22.
Unanimously accepted the following donations from: StressCrete and Urban Lawncare LLC for Atchison High School Football Program; and for AHS Campus Cupboard from Westside Veterinary Hospital and Steven and Karin Walz.
Unanimously reaffirmed Board policies GAM through GARID and reviewed policies Policy GAS to Policy GBRF. Scott said some of the policies might have to be modified somewhat to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reviewed Bad Weather procedures Scott told board members there are three snow days built into the school calendar and that sometimes contingent on weather forecasts school can be cancelled the night before. Sometimes there might be some early dismissals due to weather-related circumstances. Recessed from regular session to go behind closed doors for 15 minutes to discuss personnel matters about non-elected personnel related to employee performances; recommendations for employment; and confidential student information. After the public session reconvened, board members unanimously: Approved the following supplemental contracts for: Misti Wilson — Interventionist Team Department Head at AES; Rachel Crosswhite — AES spelling bee sponsor; and Jamie Tate — assistant AMS assistant volleyball coach. They also approved a recommendation to hire Dana Moody, to serve as a paraeducator at AES, effective Oct. 1. The following resignations were accepted for respective supplemental contracts from: Eliot Smith — as AES spelling bee sponsor; Brittany Hess — and Jamie Johnson, both for related services. All three aforementioned were effective at the end of the 2019-2020 schoolyear. Board members also accepted the resignation of a supplemental contract from Karen Glennon, Interventionist Team Department Head, effective Sept. 21. Board members also approved requests from five students to graduate at semester. The requests were approved contingent on students meeting the district’s graduation requirements that includes criteria for individual plans of study and state goals. Board President Carrie Sowers offered congratulations and best wishes on behalf of the 409 Board members. Sowers said she is confident they will do well.
Board members Dr. John Eplee was absent from the meeting.