PERU – Peru Community Schools officials say two staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 a week before students are set to return to school.

Superintendent Sam Watkins said Thursday he requested that around 20 staff members get tested after a person, not employed by the school, reported being inside one of the district’s buildings and then later testing positive for COVID.

Watkins said he requested all teachers and staff get tested who were in the same building as the person. Out of the around 20 staff who received the test, two came back positive.

He said per the school’s COVID-19 policies, those two people are now at home for at least 10 days, and can’t return to any school buildings until they are symptom-free and have tested negative for the virus.

The district also disinfected the building twice, and brought in a professional cleaning service to further clean certain parts of the building where the person had visited, Watkins said.

“These are the things we are going to do,” he said. “We’re going to take extra steps to make sure we have the safest environment for our kids and staff to come back to.”

Watkins on Wednesday informed parents, students and staff in a tweet about the two staff members testing positive. He said the district will be open and transparent about any positive cases and will work to keep everyone informed throughout the school year.

“I want people to understand that as we go back to school with this COVID-19 pandemic still with us, we’re going to have staff and students that end up positive,” Watkins said. “I just want the community to trust in us that we will make sure we’re doing the right thing and making sure our environments are safe.”

Peru schools are set to return on Aug. 6. Watkins said around 7% of students have opted to use the district’s temporary virtual learning option and stay home from classes.

He said he also spoke with teachers on Wednesday about talking to their union president if they feel uncomfortable about returning to work next week.

“If any staff member is uncomfortable, they definitely have options,” Watkins said. “I will not be forcing people to come back to work, or saying they’re insubordinate and firing them if they don’t. That’s not happening at Peru Community Schools.”

He said many people in the district are concerned right now as school returns in the midst of the pandemic, but said the district is doing everything in its power to ensure everyone is healthy and safe.

“We’ve got teachers and staff and students and parents that are pretty scared, and I’d say rightly so,” Watkins said. “That’s why we’re going to try to be as reasonable as possible, as practical as possible and as safe as possible, to get back into this school year.”

Watkins declined to say whether the two people who tested positive are teachers, or which school building had been exposed to the virus.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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