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DE PERE – One district is reopening, the other will remain closed at least until Nov. 6.

Leaders of the West De Pere and De Pere Unified school districts on Tuesday announced dramatically different plans of educating their students as coronavirus cases continue to spike in Brown County.

Benjamin Villarruel, superintendent of the Unified School District of De Pere, said in a Tuesday letter to families that the decision to keep the district’s schools closed was made with input from the De Pere Heath Department and local health care leaders.

As of Tuesday, the district’s COVID-19 dashboard showed it has 14 active cases among students and staff, while 66 have recovered. Sixteen staff members are currently under quarantine.

The school district closed its school buildings and moved all learning online at the end of September, less than a month into the school year, after nearly 900 students were absent. School officials had initially hoped to be able to resume classes this week.

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Meanwhile, West De Pere will resume in-person instruction on Monday. 

Superintendent Dennis Krueger in a letter to families said the district’s Oct. 1 shutdown provided time for anyone previously in quarantine to return to a “safe status,” unless they had an additional close contact with an infected person. 

Krueger said the district is confident it can safely operate and promised to work quickly to identify student and staff contacts with COVID-positive individuals and to quarantine those who have had close contacts.

“Increasingly as cited through studies, it is believed that schools in session are not significant contributors to community spread. While we believe it is safe in schools while using mitigation strategies, it is behaviors outside of the school environment that are most often a cause of concern.

Villaruel said the Unified District administrators and the De Pere school board will meet to discuss a return to face-to-face instruction Nov. 2.

In his letter, Villarruel called on the community to help change the trajectory of the virus by staying home, wearing a face mask, avoiding large gatherings and hand-washing frequently.

“Over the years, I have seen the De Pere community rally with strength and unity to support many urgent causes,” he wrote. “There is no time more important than now to demonstrate this spirit of solidarity so we can change the course of this local outbreak.” 

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Contact reporter Samantha West at 920-996-7207 or swest@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @BySamanthaWest.

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