On Monday, May 3, students came back to school and entered their classrooms to find that there were no longer plastic dividers separating students. Homestead has had thick plastic dividers between students in all classrooms and in the lunchroom. These dividers were put in place since September in regulation with CDC guidelines. Then, in early March the CDC stated that the barriers between students were no longer necessary in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s our intent where we can provide students and staff members some experiences that would be synonymous with a little bit more normalcy,” Dr. Matthew Joynt, superintendent of the Mequon-Thiensville School District, said. Removing the dividers was recommended by public health officials for the Mequon area. The dividers were not only taken down in the high school but also in the elementary and middle schools in the district.
Students are glad to see the dividers go. “I can now see the board from where I’m sitting. Everyone’s dividers always got in the way,” Lexi Timm, junior, said.
“They (the dividers) had to be duck taped to the desk or they would fall and make a loud noise,” Tallyn Kubicki, freshman, said.
The contact tracing system still remains the same after the removal of the plastic dividers. The only change that has occurred in contact tracing this school year is the timeline in which students can return. “Beginning of the year you could not test early to get out of quarantine, now you can,” Rachel Lemanczyk, executive director of student services, said.
Lemanczyk and her team work to trace students who have become COVID positive. They watch bus films, look at seating charts and communicate with teachers and coaches. This process can take a few hours or a day to complete and notify the families of students who have possibly been exposed to the coronavirus.
Recently there was an uptick in COVID-19 cases at Homestead High School. However, not enough for the entire school to shift to off-campus learning.
In the past, “around 20% of students registered for on-campus being unavailable for on-campus learning has triggered discussion around an intermittent school or classroom closure,” Joynt said. The recent cases did not reach that 20% mark, so contact tracing was done as usual. Those students who had been in close contact attended school virtually until they were able to come back.
A way to follow and get updated about COVID-19 cases within the district is to go to the MTSD COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard is updated periodically and contains information about positive cases and COVID-19 related closures.