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Baraboo school shuts down classroom with special ed students after employee contracts COVID-19
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Baraboo school shuts down classroom with special ed students after employee contracts COVID-19

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A Baraboo elementary classroom that includes students with disabilities was shut down late Wednesday afternoon after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

At 3:52 p.m. Wednesday, District Administrator Lori Mueller informed the school board in an email, which was later shared with the News Republic, that the East Elementary School employee “works closely with students and assistants in the classroom,” making it necessary to shut it down for 14 days.

Five students with disabilities, five support staff and a physical education teacher will be impacted by the closure, according to the email.

In another email sent to East staff at 3:50 p.m., Mueller categorized the classroom contacts as “high-risk exposure/close contacts.” She said all close-contact tracing had been completed and Principal Bryan Ashbeck was working on informing the affected individuals.

All other East families and staff received a low-risk exposure letter about the case, which said the person who tested positive was last in the school on Oct. 7, one week prior to the diagnosis. The school has roughly 230 in-person students, according to enrollment numbers presented at a late September school board meeting.

As of Monday, the Baraboo School District had fewer than five active cases in its elementary schools and three active cases in its secondary schools, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. It has had a total of 19 cases at the secondary level and fewer than five at the elementary level since the start of the school year.

This is the second time an entire classroom in the Baraboo School District has had to close due to a confirmed case, according to notices shared with the News Republic. West Elementary School shut one down Sept. 30 after an individual tested positive.

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It has not temporarily closed any schools as of Thursday, unlike many other Wisconsin districts, including several Portage schools and Wisconsin Dells High School. But several Baraboo schools have had cases that didn’t require whole closures; four of them occurred in the last two weeks.

Baraboo High School has sent out at least five low-risk exposure letters to all of its families since Sept. 22, most recently on Monday. The first staff member diagnosed with COVID-19 tested positive on Sept. 28, the same day a notice was sent to BHS families.

Mueller also emailed school board members on Sept. 24 about low-risk exposure to the junior varsity soccer team.

Individuals are deemed close contacts if they were within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, had direct physical contact with the person or had contact with their respiratory secretions, such as a cough or sneeze, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Those who had less exposure to the infected person are considered to have a low risk of contracting COVID-19 and can continue attending school in person.

Jack Young Middle School and Al Behrman Elementary School have each sent out one low-risk exposure notice, both on Oct. 9. The individuals who tested positive were last in those schools on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7, respectively.

According to an email Mueller sent to the board on Sept. 21, a Renewal Unlimited staff member who works at Baraboo’s Head Start building, run by the Portage-based nonprofit, tested positive.

East Elementary sent out a notice once before, on Oct. 6.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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