In response to a directive issued Sunday evening by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Three Rivers Community Schools (TRCS) has announced it will be closing Three Rivers High School (TRHS) and Three Rivers Middle School (TRMS) through December 8. In a Monday press release, TRCS Superintendent Ron Moag said school will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, November 17, to allow teachers and staff time to prepare for a transition. Virtual instruction for students affected by the closure will commence Wednesday.
Moag said TRMS is “included in our closure due to experiencing a high number of non-COVID related absences over the past few weeks.” In accordance with the HHS order, which also takes effect Wednesday, students in Pre-K through fifth grade will continue attending school in person. In its public announcement of the order Sunday, HHS said it is permitting younger students to remain in face-to-face instruction because virus transmission rates appear to be lower among primary grades and because the in-person format better serves those students. Moag said GSRP and early-childhood special education classes will also remain in-person.
Despite recently confirming some positive COVID-19 cases at the middle and high schools, Moag said contact tracing indicates that “so far not one of our student or staff positive cases originated at school. The consistency (with) which we monitor face covering wearing, and the sanitizing that is being done on a frequent basis during the day and in the evenings, also contributes to our ability to keep the transmission of COVID outside our school system.”
Moag said TRCS will continue to frequently consult on a regular basis with the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ) to monitor positive cases and contacts that could impact elementary and Pre-K through fifth grade programs. “My hope is that this targeted emergency order is successful in flattening the rise in positive COVID cases so that we can continue in-person instruction” among younger students, Moag said, in addition to “being able to bring back our secondary students after the three weeks.”
In order to minimize the length of the closure and maximize its impact, Moag asked for compliance with the order HHS issued Sunday. Moag said HHS “has provided some key pieces of information regardintg what is open and not open during this temporary/targeted emergency order. They have also provided guidance for social gatherings.”
With his letter Monday, Moag included three supporting documents showing what is involved in carrying out the HHS order and limiting COVID risk. Moag closed his letter by saying, “the alternative to not following this emergency order will result in more COVID positive cases, additional lives lost, and a significant loss in learning for our TRCS students that will take years to recover.”
Dave Vago is a writer and columnist for Watershed Voice. A Philadelphia native with roots in Three Rivers, Vago is a planning consultant to history and community development organizations and is the former Executive Director of the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street program.