MORGANTOWN, Ind — The playground sat empty Wednesday at Helmsburg Elementary School. So did the classrooms.
After just a week of classes, Brown County Schools closed the building for three days due to multiple positive COVID-19 cases.
"It's sad that within the first couple days of school that there were children that came to school that tested positive for COVID, because maybe they had that before and they should have stayed home in general,” said Deidre Alltop, mother of a kindergartner at the school.
More than 60 of the roughly 300 students and staff at the school either have COVID, were traced as close contacts, or were absent with possible symptoms. That's 21.4 percent of the school population, above the 20 percent threshold which the school district uses for a pivot to temporary remote learning.
Helmsburg Elementary will be closed the rest of this week. The school building is undergoing a deep cleaning. Students and staff will return on Monday unless there are additional new positive COVID cases.
Alltop brought her daughter, Liliana Owens, to school Wednesday to pick up a remote learning packet. Owens was excited to start all-day kindergarten Aug. 4, her first school experience away from home.
“Yeah, it's so fun,” said Owens.
Brown County reports a seven-day positivity rate of 3.92 percent, with 52.6 percent of the eligible population vaccinated. Both numbers are better than the state average.
"I think with this delta variant starting to rear its ugly little head that we're seeing an increase in both testing and vaccination,” said Corey Frost, public health preparedness coordinator for the Brown County Health Department. “So, the good news is we're seeing an increase in the vaccination. That that's our tool to fight this pandemic and we're going to continue to push that message of getting your vaccination."
"I hope that this break early on in the school year sets the pace, lets everyone know that it's still serious, that it's still a concern to a lot of people still out there and that we’ve got to take care of our kids,” said Alltop.
Superintendent Emily Tracy said no other Brown County schools are close to the threshold of facing a shutdown. The school district started the school year with masks optional, but went to masks required for everyone in all school buildings on Aug. 9.