School officials shut down an elementary school in Auburn for the remainder of the week after a spike of COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
Calvert Elementary School was closed Thursday and won't reopen until Monday after a "pretty high number" of cases were identified across all grade levels, said Superintendent David Patton.
Officials with the Southeast District Health Department and the Auburn school district declined to say how many positive cases were identified because of privacy concerns. There are 466 students enrolled at the school for kindergarten through fifth grade students in Auburn, which has a population of about 3,300.
Masks were not required of students or staff in the Auburn district since school started Aug. 13, but will be required going forward at Calvert until conditions change, Patton added. The school will also undergo a deep cleaning.
The Auburn Board of Education has called an emergency meeting for Monday to "discuss and possibly take action on COVID protocols."
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The cluster of cases at Calvert Elementary forced students and teachers identified as close contacts into quarantine, raising concerns about staffing.
School officials are not aware of any hospitalizations tied to the outbreak.
Patton said it's unclear how the outbreak started but said one case in an adult was identified at the school Monday. Then, Tuesday, a few more cases sprouted up, including among students. By Wednesday, "it was a flood gate," Patton said.
"I was getting notifications of positives on the hour."
Grant Brueggemann, executive director of the Southeast District Health Department, called the cluster "concerning" because of how quickly it grew and said the school was right to act promptly.
Brueggemann added his agency never required schools to mandate masks but supported the decision to require them at Calvert going forward.
Patton said protocols will be changed as conditions do and said the masking requirement did not equal a mandate for the entire school year.
"Ultimately, we just want everyone — both our staff and students — to be safe," Patton said. "School is important to everyone, and kids are excited to be back ... so it's just unfortunate that something like this is happening so early in the school year."
The outbreak highlights the difficulties schools are facing as the more infectious delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread.
Millard Public Schools in Omaha shut down a classroom at Montclair Elementary School this week after four cases were identified. Masks are not required in that district.
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