COVID cases taking toll on local schools, sports

For The Weekly Post

The Princeville School District switched to remote learning on Tuesday and has called off all sports until Dec. 7 due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

In Elmwood, a promising 7th grade girls basketball postseason came to an abrupt end after two players tested positive for COVID and the 8th grade girls basketball postseason appears to have barely survived becoming a pandemic casualty.

No question, COVID is rearing its ugly spiky head locally.

At Princeville, Superintendent Shannon Duling said the school district there went from three students out for COVID-related issues during the week of Nov. 8 to 96 out by Tuesday afternoon. Of those, 25 students were positive cases, 19 were experiencing symptoms and 52 have been in contact with a positive case. Most of those contacts were outside of school, Duling said in an email sent to Princeville parents Tuesday.

“The [Peoria County] Health Department has put us on an adaptive pause,” Duling said.

What that means is students will be learning from home and all extracurriculars are on hold until at least Tuesday, Dec. 7.

“We are hopeful the 14-day pause will help lower the community spread we are experiencing and provide time for many of our families to recover,” Duling wrote.

Another 104 students were in the school’s Test to Stay Protocol after likely contact with a positive case. Because they wore masks, they could remain in school Monday. Duling said five staff members were out: two who tested positive, three in quarantine.

In Elmwood, a promising 7th grade girls basketball season – which included a school-record 17-game win streak – ended after the top-seeded team was forced to forfeit Monday’s IESA regional game against Brimfield due to two positive COVID cases among players. Two days earlier, Princeville had forfeit to Brimfield due to COVID cases. As a result, Brimfield reached the title game without playing.

Monday night, just a few hundred yards away from the gym where that 7th grade regional was being played, parents were asking the Elmwood School Board to find a way to let the 8th grade girls team play in the Brimfield Regional on Nov. 30 at 6:15 p.m.

“Give these girls the chance they really deserve,” said Erin Magee, parent of a 7th grader.

Chances of the 8th graders playing appeared unlikely on Monday, though, since 7th and 8th grade Elmwood players “intermixed” during a practice on Nov. 19, according to Grade School Principal Marcy Brugger, who said she contacted health department officials.

“They said the girls are out for 14 days and that’s the final decision,” Brugger said Monday.

Elmwood Superintendent Chad Wagner followed up with the IDPH on Tuesday, however, and was told that intermixed practices did not require quarantine if officials could “accurately deduce that individual students were not in close contact for more than 15 minutes at three feet.” After analyzing footage of the one-hour practice, Wagner said it was deemed that all 8th graders could play Nov. 30 so long as they are asymptomatic.

Princeville’s 8th grade team had previously forfeit its regional game scheduled for Nov. 29 vs. Elmwood.