2 schools in Janesville pivot to online learning to prevent COVID-19 outbreak

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Students attending Craig High School and Roosevelt Elementary School in Janesville are temporarily switching to virtual learning to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.

Online learning starts on Wednesday for students and lasts until Sept. 25, according to a release from the School District of Janesville.  Tuesday will be considered a non-instructional day for Craig and Roosevelt students.

School administrators worked with the Rock County Public Health Department on these plans after there were several known positive cases impacting these schools. However district leaders say they were overwhelmed with contact tracing efforts.

“(Our staff) spent so many hours last evening following up on cases,” said SDJ Spokesperson Patrick Gasper. “Who should be listed as a close contact, who should not be, who should be considered a low risk student. With more cases coming in, we came to a realization we would not be able to function that way because we’d be contacting so many families.”

For parents, Monday’s announcement was an unwelcome surprise.

“My jaw hit the floor, I had total shock,” said Katie Jones, a mother of three students in the district. “Shock and awe. You didn’t see this coming.”

Jones says she’s upset with how many questions have been left unanswered by the district at this point.

“Were there more kids that were exposed?” she said. “Were there more tests that came back positive? It’s just one of those what, why, how situations.”

However Jones’s son, Tristan, says he wasn’t as surprised to see today’s news.

“There was already an eerie sense that something was going to happen this year,” said Tristan Jones, a Senior at Craig High School. “The seniors we were already calling it.”

Other students didn’t see the COVID-19 outbreak among students as a surprise, either.

“I don’t really see point of coming back in the first place, even,” said Daniel Martinez, a Junior.  “I don’t think it’s really even safe to come back. There’s no way to social distance at all.”

Martinez said although he opted for in-person learning, he sometimes felt unsafe from Coronavirus at school.

“I guess we were wearing our masks and stuff, but still, there’s not really any way to social distance,” he said. “We’re all walking in the halls. There’s no way to keep six feet (distance) at all times.”

Other parents say the sudden shift to online classes does not meet the needs of their children.

“To be completely honest, I was upset and I was outraged,” said Rebecca Crain, whose 9th grade daughter has a learning disability. “I basically threw my phone, to be honest with you, because it’s upsetting.”

Gasper says the district will connect with families of students with IEPs, but has no plan to bring those students back to school – yet.

During this time, school meals will be available free of charge for students. The meals will be offered curb-side at both Craig High School and Roosevelt Elementary School between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. during school days.This is in addition to the meal pick-up locations established at Edison, Franklin, and Marshall middle schools, the letter said.

After Sept. 25, Gasper says the district will assess the situation and decide to bring students back or keep them home.