In the first four days of hybrid learning, the district has seen three positive coronavirus cases, with two at the high school level that also have disrupted the seasons of two sports teams.
A second-grader from Whitehall Elementary was the district’s first positive case, followed by the reporting on Wednesday of a girls soccer player testing positive and then an assistant football coach today.
All members of the girls soccer team were notified Wednesday that they needed to start a 14-day quarantine, and football players were sent home from school today to begin their own 14-day quarantine. The athletes will not be in school, and the teams will not be able to practice or play games.
Health guidelines suggest that if two to four positive cases arise in a building, then a district should close that school for several days and do a deep clean. But because the soccer player and assistant football coach had not ever been in the school building, their cases do not count toward any such short-term closure, Supt. Dr. Randal Lutz said.
The district knew that coronavirus cases would arise at some point, so procedures and protocols for dealing with positive cases were already in place, Lutz said.
“It was not an issue of ‘if’ we would have cases but ‘when,’ ” he said.
The district contacted by phone and email all of the athletes from the two teams and their parents to explain the quarantine protocol. The areas outside the building where the soccer player and assistant football coach had been were deep cleaned.
In addition to switching to remote learning for the next two weeks, members of the girls soccer and football teams also will go two weeks without practices or games.
Lutz said the impact of the quarantine was evident as the football players waited to be picked up to go home in the middle of the school day today.
“You could see the emotion from the football players’ faces as they went to their cars or to be picked up by parents,” Lutz said.
Soccer player Adriana Marina said the announcement of her teammate’s positive test result came as a surprise.
“This is definitely the last thing we would’ve expected,” Marina said. “We took precautions and followed guidelines, but as of now we just have to quarantine and get back as healthy as we can.”
Marina said her thoughts were with her teammate.
“I’m concerned for my teammate. I wish her well and I hope she recovers as best as she can,” Marina said.
The time lost to the quarantine will be a concern, she said, but not an insurmountable one.
“As a senior, it is very sad to think our season is becoming shorter as the days go on. The season was just getting started, but this is just a minor setback that I think we can overcome as a whole,” Marina said.
“Although I will be missing my first few in-person days of school, knowing I am taking steps to keep others safe is comforting,” she said.
Football player CJ Lucas agreed that the news of the positive test result and the quarantine had brought on a mix of emotions.
“We are all keeping coach and his family in our thoughts. We are hoping they are all well soon,” Lucas said.
Coming after last Friday’s season-opening win over Hollidaysburg, the two-week disruption of the season is difficult for players, Lucas said.
“Everybody’s pretty upset about what’s going on. Our schedule was already reduced by two games before the season, and now losing two more just makes it even worse,” he said.
The football team’s quarantine also affects the band and the cheer team, which had been scheduled to perform at next week’s game.
Lucas said the football team will try to make the best of the situation.
“All this means is that we lose these next two games against North Allegheny and Canon Mac. After these two weeks are up, we should be able to get right back on track to play Norwin and the rest of our schedule,” he said.
“Our season isn’t over,” Lucas added. “Don’t count us out or think that we’re giving up.”
This story was originally published on Purbalite on September 17, 2020.