As Rock County COVID-19 cases soar, Edgerton schools say in-person learning might be safest option

EDGERTON, Wis. – The Coronavirus continues to surge in Rock County, with both active cases and hospitalizations hitting record highs headed into Wednesday.

As of Thursday, nearly one in 90 people countywide currently have the illness and more than 30 people are hospitalized.

“We’ve seen an increase in COVID patients, but we’ve also seen an increase in patients overall,” said Kathleen Glenn, VP of Patient Services at SSM Health in Janesville.

Despite the surge, Glenn says SSM has had enough time to prepare both staff and levels of PPE. In addition, Glenn said there’s no fixed number of hospitalizations SSM can handle at one time.

“We look at the number of open beds, we look at the number of discharges we have, and we look at procedures,” she said. “When we look at those procedures, we also look at patients that potential that need a hospital bed, so it’s always kind of a moving number.”

While some districts in Rock County, like Beloit, have started the year learning virtually, and others, like Janesville, have had to close schools due to outbreaks, one district says they feel confident their plan is working.

“The whole plan was predicated on making a plan that doesn’t shut a school or the district down,” said Dr. Dennis Pauli, District Administrator for the Edgerton School District. “Our positive cases in the schools are not correlating with what’s happening in Rock County or even the Edgerton School District. The numbers are higher outside than inside.”

Pauli says since the start of the school year, just 2 staff and 3 students have contracted COVID. Due to the creation of cohorts at the elementary school and limited blending of classes at the middle and high school level, Edgerton schools have been able to stay open during almost the entirety of the school year.

“What we’re seeing in the community isn’t necessarily reflective of what we’re seeing in the schools,” he said.

Third grade teacher Andrea Johnson says her experience this year is unlike any year of teaching she’s had prior.

“We’re flying the airplane as we build it. They don’t teach you about this in college,” she said. “You don’t really prep for something like this.”

Johnson says, however, her experience teaching her third grade cohort has been positive.

“We’ve been very open and honest about why we’re wearing a mask and why we have to social distance,” she said.

Both Johnson and Pauli say would in person learning not be an option, some students would suffer.

“We are certainly teaching during scary times, but we have to remember that it’s equally scary for families who send their children here as well,” Johnson said. “For some families, that’s their only choice.”

Pauli says the district is taking things week by week, and will continue to monitor the county’s situation in coming weeks. If necessary, Pauli says students and teachers are prepared to pivot to online learning.