'New territory for all of us': 35 Waukesha third graders in quarantine after positive case at elementary school

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- All third graders at a Waukesha elementary school are now under quarantine after a student tested positive for COVID-19.

Deputy Superintendent Joe Koch confirmed that about 100 students and 30 staff members are quarantining across the School District of Waukesha. They are quarantining either because they tested positive or because they came in close contact with someone who did.

Koch said a third grade student at Hillcrest Elementary School tested positive after they attended school during the first week of the new school year. Administrators decided to quarantine the entire grade level, which is about 35 students.

"Because it was an elementary level, it was reasonably simple to contain. The third grade was around the third grade, and so that's how we came to the decision that we came to, but this is new territory for all of us," Koch said.

The third graders here are learning virtually right now and will be allowed to come back to school on Sept. 16.

In July, the Waukesha School Board voted to open schools for in-person learning, but after more discussion, the district later decided to add hybrid and virtual options. Between 2,600 and 2,700 students across the district are learning virtually this year, Koch said.

"We have teachers and administrators who missed their students tremendously, and we know the benefit of face-to-face learning, so from an instructional standpoint, it's absolutely the right thing to bring people together," Koch said.

All students are required to wear masks, and teachers are wearing masks and face shields or googles. The district had already implemented a number of other mitigation strategies such as temperature checks, symptom screenings and an isolation room where students can go if they show symptoms at school.

Administrators also hired a COVID-specific nurse and a team of contract tracers, who worked for Waukesha County as contract tracers over the summer.

"The county did say it was going to be our responsibility to do (contact tracing). We have three nurses on hand. They would not have the ability to execute this on a day-to-day basis," Koch said.

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