A rising number of COVID-19 cases in Monticello has prompted the school district to shift to remote learning for all students between Nov. 18 and Dec. 4. School officials hope to re-open school buildings for a resumption of in-person instruction on Monday, Dec. 7.

School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said a major factor in the decision was the stress on school staff, who are teaching both in-person and remote learners. With 19 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff since Oct. 30, that has boosted the total of online-only students from 14 percent of the student population to about 34 percent, since close contacts are also required to quarantine at home.

“Our teachers are managing three different learning plans when we add in the temporary remote students,” said Zimmerman in an email to parents on Tuesday. “This over-stretches teachers.”

He added that the 19 cases originated outside of the school walls.

“Frankly, some poor adult decisions outside of school are causing this school closure to occur. I get that we are all COVID-weary and we want to live our lives, but we cannot 'have our cake and eat it, too'. Following all safety measures inside of school for 25 hours per week then attending non-family social gatherings, playing travel ball, and ignoring safety guidelines for the other 143 hours a week will not work,” said Zimmerman.

He encouraged district families to follow health safety guidelines as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Piatt County saw its greatest number of new cases last week since the pandemic began, recording 139 in a five-day period between Nov. 10-14. A total of 47 of those were among Monticello residents.

Wednesday will be a remote learning transition day for Monticello students and staff, with no live instruction but lessons posted on Google and Seesaw platforms. Formal online instruction will begin Thursday and continue through Friday, Dec. 4.

Information on meals distribution will be emailed to parents on Wednesday.

There will also be no access to the Kirby Medical Center rapid COVID test while the district is on remote learning, said Zimmerman. School staff and students should instead contact their medical provider or go to a public testing facility if they need to be tested.

“I understand the potential hardship that going 100 percent remote will put on some of our families due to parent work schedules,” he added. “Now is a great time to again come together as a community and help a neighbor or friend out.”

Zimmerman applauded students in the district for adhering to safety protocols.

“Our in-school students wear their masks and follow safety guidelines to the greatest extent possible and our at-home students are keeping pace as well as they can in a difficult situation. I am also incredibly proud of our faculty and staff members who are teaching our students, taking temperatures in the office, cleaning our buildings and making daily meals,” he said. “This year is like no other school year before and we have asked all of our employees to work in different ways – they all deserve a gold medal.”

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