PACKWOOD – Pekin High School has canceled its football game scheduled for Friday with Cardinal after three members of the football team tested positive for COVID-19.
Pekin Superintendent Dave Harper said five additional players were exposed to the three who tested positive, and that all eight are being quarantined. Harper said the students who tested positive received the results of their tests late last week. Pekin played Belle Plaine on Friday, Sept. 4. Harper said he is not aware of Belle Plaine having any positive COVID-19 cases.
The eight students will attend online classes only during their quarantine, which is expected to last 10-14 days from the date they were exposed. After that time, the students will be allowed to return to in-person classes at Pekin.
Pekin is having its students come to school full-time if they desire, but they have the option of doing their coursework online.
Harper said 15-20 students have chosen to do online instruction only.
This Friday was supposed to be Pekin’s homecoming game. Since the game has been canceled, the school decided to delay its homecoming festivities until November. Harper said it made the most sense given the circumstances and the district’s desire to limit social interactions at this time.
“We thought it was best to have the students focus on their school day and to avoid the risk of extra contamination,” he said.
Jefferson County Public Health Administrator Chris Estle said her office is in charge of contact tracing on Jefferson County residents who have COVID-19. She said that whether her office tracks a Pekin student with COVID-19 depends on whether they live in Jefferson County. If they live in a neighboring county such as Keokuk, that county’s public health department would be responsible for contact tracing and informing exposed individuals that they came into contact with a carrier of COVID-19.
Harper said the school district is not responsible for testing students. It identifies the students who have been exposed to COVID-19 and informs their parents of that fact but leaves the decision about testing up to the parents.
Harper said nothing else at the school is changing as a result of the COVID-19 positive tests apart from the quarantine for the eight students. He said all other school activities, such as athletics, band and choir, will continue as planned. He said the school is confident those groups can maintain safe social distancing during their practices, rehearsals and games.
“We want to stress to our kids the importance of social distancing,” Harper said. “We’re doing the best we can to disinfect classrooms between class and at night.”
Masks are mandatory for Pekin staff when they cannot safely socially distanced. They are encouraged, but not required, for students.
Harper said the student body is handling the new routine this year well.
“Kids are resilient and are good at adapting and overcoming obstacles,” he said.