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Students return to school today after a five-day pause due to Covid outbreak

By Ralph Echtinaw

St. Louis students are back in school today after a five-day “pause” due to a Covid breakout.

“We continue to closely watch the number of cases within our school community,” said Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick. “We did see a quick increase of Covid cases, and we also saw other illnesses in our buildings.  Therefore, we made the decision to take a five-day pause. Closing school is always the last resort, but in this case we needed to take action to keep our staff and students distanced from each other.”

The event was foreshadowed on Monday, Jan. 17, the day before the pause, when McKittrick told the school board that there were 11 Covid cases reported just that day, a new school record. “We’ve seen a strong uptick in our Covid cases,” she said. We have staff out. We have kids out. We’re going to make the best decision on a daily basis for the safety of staff and students so we will continue to monitor and do what we have to do.”

Ironically, it was at that meeting when McKittrick announced a new, more lenient, policy for Covid cases. Students and staff who test positive now will be asked to quarantine for five days (down from 10). They can return to school then but only if they agree to wear a mask for five days.

Though the state health department no longer collects close contact information and notifies families, the school district will, McKittrick said. “We will continue to close contact our kids because it’s important to our families to know if they’re in close contact with a positive case. So we’ll still send that notification out. But instead now we just send the health department the number of kids we have close contacted. So there’s no change in us doing close contact, but it’s easier reporting on our end.”

The district reports its Covid cases among staff and students here.

Robotics

McKittrick told the board that she has applied for a $4,750 robotics grant. “We were awarded the grant last year and hope to receive it again this year. The grant will assist with our students participating in the Sharks Innovative Vehicle Design program, and the grant dollars will be used for supplies and materials.”

New hires

The board approved the following new hires: 

High School Principal Benjamin Brock, 44, of Alma. Brock began teaching in Grayling Schools in 2003. Moving to Port Huron Schools in 2009 he was athletic director and high school principal there. Two others applied for the St. Louis job.

High School Hall Monitor Keno Hills: “Keno Hills came to us helping out with boys football and wants to take on more rolls,” McKittrick said. “He’s retired. He’s Interested in mentoring youth. He serves a great purpose in our hallways and wants to do some event coordinating.”

TSN Student Success Coordinator Sarah DeJong: 

DeJong has a background in social work and will split the student success coordinator duties with Jeff Oswald. She will cover the middle school school, and Oswald the high school. DeJong’s salary will be covered by the federal government’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.

“Originally we had Jeff Oswald split between the high school and TSN as the student success coordinator,” McKittrick said. “We saw more need that we could fill two full time positions. Sara has a background in social work. Working in academics with groups of kids as well as doing some emotional learning. Her roll is a little different than Jeff’s.”

Varsity Girls Track Coach Brogan Holmes: “Brogan is a former student athlete of ours (Class of 2014) and went off to Division 1 college to run track (Detroit Mercy) and now is coming back to her home town to coach girls track. I think she’ll be a wonderful mentor for our student athletes.”

Varsity Boys Assistant Track Coach Tommy Cannon: “He’s actually helped out with our football team and been a great mentor for our young football players and track players.”

Eighth Grade Boys Basketball Coach Adam Alexander.

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