Westonka schools are stepping up COVID-19 mitigation measures in the district after noting a sharp uptick in cases and a spike in staff shortages, according to district officials.

On Wednesday, Jan. 12, district officials notified staff, parents and students that Westonka High School will switch to distance learning for a week to address district-wide staffing shortages. The switch to distance-learning will go into place on Tuesday, Jan. 18. District officials will re-evaluate the situation after that week, and expect to make an announcement about ongoing policies on or before Jan. 20.

Masking will be required indoors for all staff, students and visitors to the school at Shirley Hills Primary School, effective immediately. Shirley Hills students will also eat lunch in a “pod” structure, with students staying with the same group for lunch daily. Staff will also maximize social distancing practices in classrooms, and assemblies and large group gatherings will be eliminated during the school day, according to the district.

Changes at the Westonka Early Learning Center, Hilltop Primary and Grandview Middle schools will see less stringent changes. Masking is strongly recommended for staff and students at these facilities, and staff will work to maximize social distancing in classrooms and at lunch.

In the past week, the district has noted more than 100 new COVID-19 cases, mostly among student and staff at the high school and Shirley Hills, which accounted for 41 and 30 of the new weekly cases, respectively.

The district will also apply the Centers for Disease Control’s new COVID-19 quarantine protocols, effective immediately. The new protocols call for a 5-day isolation/quarantine period for students and staff under certain circumstances.

Athletics and special activities slated outside the standard school day are unaffected, but district officials strongly recommend masking at all activities.

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