Portage schools had the highest number of outbreaks of COVID-19 the week of March 15, compared to schools across Michigan
Portage Central High School had 24 ongoing cases from staff members and students while Portage Central Elementary had 20 ongoing cases from staff and students.
Portage Central High School Principal Eric Alburtus said many of those cases stemmed from the men and women’s basketball teams starting up their season.
“We actually shut down our entire basketball program for about a week and a half because every varsity women’s basketball player had the virus except for one,” Albertus said. “On the men’s side, almost half of our varsity and fewer JV and freshman players were either quarantined or tested positive.”
Portage Central High School is now doing a rapid test weekly for the basketball, cheerleading and wrestling team to ensure another outbreak does not occur.
“It’s all about communication,” Albertus said. “If the parents and staff continue to communicate with each other and keep letting us know what’s going on in their own families, then we can respond to it.”
Elementary students in the district have had the option of in-person learning the entire school year, with more students returning each quarter.
“What we have chosen to do at Portage Public Schools is from the start of the school year our elementary students had the option to go in-person or stay online,” Albertus said. “At each quarter, our families could make that decision to either return to in-person classes or remain remote.”
Portage Central Elementary offered an in-person option for all elementary students since the start of the school year and never moved exclusively online like many other elementary schools. As a result of this, Portage Central Elementary has 20 ongoing COVID-19 cases, which is much higher than other elementary schools within the last week.
Community relations manager of Portage Public Schools, Michelle Karpinski said, “we interact with the Health Department each time we are notified of a positive case, to help with contact tracing and to determine who may have been a close contact, who may need to quarantine and for how long, and whether the quarantine affects an individual, the entire classroom or the entire school.”
The district has many protocols for students who may have been in close contact with someone who tested positive.
“The Health Department doesn’t recommend our schools do screening for students but recommends that our families screen their child prior to sending them to school or any school activity,” Karpinski said.
Portage public schools are enacting necessary protocols to prevent any more outbreaks within the district as the state begins to open up.