EIS staff member tests positive for COVID-19; additional staff, students to self-isolate

By STEVEN MURREY

A staff member at Elwood Intermediate School has tested positive for COVID-19, corporation superintendent Dr. Joe Brown said in an email to parents late Thursday afternoon. The notification marks the fourth staff member within the district to test positive for the virus since July 25. Three students have also tested positive since the fall semester began, emails from the superintendent show.

On July 27, Brown made parents aware of the first positive case among staff members. On July 31, Brown alerted parents of a positive staff member at Hinds Career Center.

ECSC Superintendent Dr. Joe Brown is pictured during the recent commencement ceremony.

The following Saturday, Aug. 1, the Elwood School Board met in an emergency executive session and voted to close Elwood Junior-Senior High School for a week to allow for deep cleaning. The closure came after only two days of in-person learning.

During the closure, Brown notified families of a student at Elwood Junior-Senior High School who had tested positive for COVID-19. Two days later on Aug. 5, Brown sent notification of a second positive student at the school. The following day, Brown alerted parents of a third positive student. Brown said the latter two cases were close contacts of the first positive student.

Because Elwood schools were among the first Indiana schools to reopen, the positive cases among students drew national media attention. Coverage ranged from local media outlets to the New York Times and Good Morning America.

A week later, Brown notified parents of a positive staff member at Elwood Intermediate School.

Last week, in a letter sent to district families, Brown offered thanks for the flexibility and patience provided over the first month.

“Figuring out school during a global pandemic has not been easy,” Brown wrote. “I doubt that changes in the next few months. One thing we’ve all learned is that things can change overnight, and we have to have plans A, B, C, and D ready.”

Brown said he was also grateful for how well students are doing with preventative measures put in place.

“They impress me every day with wearing their masks and social distancing,” he wrote.

Brown also announced that Wednesday eLearning days would continue until Fall Break. During the Aug. 1 executive session, the board voted to close on Wednesdays for cleaning through the month. Brown said that because almost 500 students have chosen eLearning options, the Wednesday closures allow staff time to prepare for the additional workload they’re experiencing.

“Our custodial staff will continue to use this time to deep clean buildings,” Brown said in the letter.

In his email to intermediate school families Thursday, Brown said close contacts of the positive staff member received a phone call from a school nurse.

“As a reminder, you should not send your student to school if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or are awaiting a COVID-19 test,” Brown wrote Thursday. “We encourage you to use the checklist that was provided to screen students daily.”

In a statement to the Call-Leader late Thursday, Brown said additional staff members and students are self-isolating after being deemed close contacts of the latest known positive case. Brown did not disclose the number of students and staff deemed to be close contacts.

On Thursday, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) reported 1,164 new cases and six additional deaths. Madison County reported 15 new cases, bringing the county’s total to 1,245. 68 area residents have died of the virus according to information provided by ISDH.

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