MADISON,, Mo. — Classes at Madison C3 School District in western Monroe County were suspended for two weeks after 34 students or staff members went into isolation due to COVID-19 by Wednesday.

As last week started, the small district, which contains elementary, junior high and high school under one roof, had 33 students and staff in isolation because of the coronavirus.

But classes were still in session, though the schools did shut down for a day on Tuesday, Oct. 6, as administrators worked to deal with issues. On Wednesday, as planned, school reopened for business.

But by late Wednesday afternoon, another case of coronavirus surfaced in the district. The number of staff and students in quarantine hit 34. Zach Bruner, Madison Schools superintendent, decided it was time to close the building for two weeks.

Bruner sent a message to parents and staff that the district is entering a phase of what is labeled “Alternative Methods of Instruction,” as the school district ceases in-person classed until Oct. 26.

“With the rising number of COVID-19 cases within our school and community, and based on the Monroe County Health Department’s recommendation, we decided to close our school down for two weeks. As of today, Oct. 8, our students began distance learning,” Bruner told the Salt River Journal.

Bruner said that after talking with Health Department Director Paula Delaney, the only wise choice was to suspend in-person classes for two weeks.

“Once the health department made this recommendation, I felt that we needed to lean on the experts and take their advice when dealing with the safety of our students, staff, and community members,” Bruner said. “We are truly hoping that these two weeks will allow us to open back up on Oct. 26 and begin in-person learning again in the safest way possible.”

Delaney said that Bruner and leaders of other school districts in the county, have maintained close contact with the department during this school year to seek guidance on issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We talked with Dr. Bruner and we recommended the school close down for two weeks, though we did not issue a mandate or order. It was strictly the district’s decision. The school was doing their job with contact tracing but it was just getting to the point that so many kids were involved,” Delaney said. “But I do believe that it is the prudent course of action.”

Madison Schools teachers and administrators, after joining all others schools in Northeast Missouri and closing for the last part of the 2019-20 school year, created contingency plans over the summer to prepare for any COVID-19 issues, whether it be students in isolation or a full shutdown.

In a letter to district parents, students and staff, Bruner outlined how instruction would be handled during the closure.

“This is truly something that we did not want to happen and took precautions to prevent, but in accordance to Monroe County Health Department recommendations, we feel this is the safest option for right now,” he wrote. “We will continue to work hard to keep the students and staff of our school district as safe and healthy as possible.”

The closing of the schools is also a blow to the Madison High School Lady Panthers softball team, whose remaining season was cancelled.

“We want to congratulate the players and coaches on a successful season that we wish could have ended differently,” the district posted on its Facebook feed.

The district also announced that breakfast and lunch will still be available for students, on school days only. Meals will be available for pickup or delivery.

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