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EASTLAKE, Ohio (WJW)– Nearly a dozen coronavirus cases that prompted the Willoughby-Eastlake City School District to close all schools and halt extracurricular activities originated from outside school buildings, according to the district superintendent.

Superintendent Steve Thompson said 11 current COVID-19 cases at several schools district-wide prompted the switch to virtual learning this week, largely due to staffing issues created by large quarantines that affect teachers.

“If I’m going to make a mistake, it is going to be on the side of caution,” Thompson told reporters Tuesday.

Willoughby-Eastlake is among the largest districts in the region and was among the first to resume in-person learning, according to Thompson. The closures align with the school board’s reopening plans, developed with community input over the summer.

Thompson said the school board met Monday night and hopes to resume in-person learning on Oct. 26 after this pause, which will include extensive cleaning of school buildings. The board was scheduled to meet again on Oct. 22.

“If we don’t get a handle on this, it’s going to be a much more difficult journey a month or two down the road,” Thompson said.

He noted the tremendous strain virtual learning places on working families, with many parents who were home in the spring now back to work.

“This might be one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever been a part of making,” Thompson said. “There are families so severely negatively impacted by the reality that we’re not in school.”

Thompson said he is currently reviewing new, stringent reopening protocols submitted by each extracurricular activity and sport. The district has already approve some, including Willoughby-South High School football, to resume.

Thompson said the district’s contact tracing has determined cases originated outside of school buildings, from contact with family members or at social gatherings.

“Every single exposure we’ve been able to trace have been to outside the school district,” he said, pleading with parents to do more to reduce outside risks.

“Our protocols in our school work if we could just stop the exposure outside of school.”

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