School Report Card: This week, Notre Dame president tests positive for COVID-19 after White House event and parents protest virtual school

Elise Solé
·8 mins read
John Jenkins
University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, who attended a Sept. 26 White House event to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, later tested positive for COVID-19. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.

University of Notre Dame president tests positive for COVID-19 after controversial White House photos surface

The University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, who enforced face masks as a condition for resuming in-person instruction, tested positive for COVID-19 after forgoing a mask at a White House ceremony where President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“During self-quarantine this week, [Jenkins] learned that a colleague with whom he has been in regular contact tested positive for COVID-19,” a Notre Dame spokesperson tells Yahoo Life in a statement. “Fr. Jenkins was tested and found to be positive for COVID-19 too.”

Jenkins has mild symptoms and is working from home. “The positive test is a good reminder for me and perhaps for all of how vigilant we need to be,” he said in the statement.

After photos of Jenkins at the Sept. 26 event angered some students, he wrote in a school letter sent to Yahoo Life, that he regretted his choices “and for failing to lead as I should have.”

Jenkins said he received a rapid COVID-19 test at the White House, then stayed in a waiting room with masked individuals until he received notification of a negative test “and were told that it was safe to remove our masks.” However, CNN reports that two White House guests from Notre Dame (whose names were not given) claimed they were not tested beforehand and received no prior White House testing mandates.

“I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask during the ceremony and by shaking hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden,” wrote Jenkins. “I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so.” Jenkins began to self-quarantine after the event.

On Sunday, three Notre Dame juniors submitted a resolution with 200 signatures to the university’s Student Senate calling for Jenkins’s resignation, the Associated Press reported. Members of the Student Senate did not reply to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.

California parents take unusual stand against virtual school with a “Zoom Out”

Frustrated families in California, where most schools teach remotely pending reductions in local COVID-19 infections, went offline this week in a “Zoom Out” protest organized by the Facebook group Reopen California Schools.

The group, which is comprised of more than 8,000 members, is fighting for in-person instruction five days a week for children’s academic and emotional welfare, although group administrator Jonathan Zachreson tells Yahoo Life that families who favor distance learning should have that option. “We’re advocating for choice,” he says.

Zachreson estimates that thousands of parents logged off this week (with and without giving notice to schools); some requested class assignments ahead of time while others, like his daughter, an eighth grader, spent the week resting.

A spokesperson from the California Department of Education tells Yahoo Life, “We share the desire for returning to in-person learning as soon as it is safe, and we would like to praise our teachers for working hard to reach and teach every student under difficult circumstances, and make distance learning engaging and rigorous for students.”

Zachreson plans to have his daughter rejoin virtual school this week. It is not immediately clear what other parents who participated in the “Zoom Out” plan to do.

A youth football coach is fired for working pending his positive COVID-19 test

On Monday, the Wisconsin All-American Youth Football League announced the firing of a youth assistant football coach who worked an eighth-grade game while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, which turned out to be positive. The football players who participate in the community league attend schools in the Kewaskum-Hartford area.

The coach received a phone call from the Ozaukee Public Health Department with his test results during the Saturday scrimmage but told the contact tracer he would call back after it was finished. However, during a game break, two head coaches were informed of a confirmed case on the premises and the assistant coach “admitted” he was positive, per the league’s announcement.

The coach was “relieved” of his duties, the league said.

“His behavior was irresponsible and as a result, he risked the health of the players, coaches and family members,” Ozaukee County Public Health Director Kirsten Johnson tells Yahoo Life. Johnson confirmed that the coach, whose identity has not been made public, followed up with the contract tracer and completed required health protocols.

Wisconsin has seen a recent spike in cases over the past few weeks that compares to New York in March or Arizona in June, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. As of Friday, there were 127,906 positive COVID-19 cases, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Gov. Tony Evers declared a state health emergency on Sept. 22 and issued a new mask mandate for people older than five when indoors or in an enclosed space with people outside of their household, according to an executive order.

An Arkansas superintendent dies as teachers protest in-person classes

Jody Jenkins, the superintendent of the Atkins School District in Atkins, Ark., died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19. “He loved the community, he loved his school, and he adored all of the students. Please join us in praying for his family,” read a district announcement.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who called Jenkins "highly respected,” encouraged schools to open for in-person instruction in August. A representative of the Arkansas Department of Education tells Yahoo Life that districts can offer virtual, hybrid or in-person instruction, however, schools are required to offer in-person teaching to families that choose it.

The day before Jenkins’s death, members of the Little Rock Education Association stayed home from school to protest “unsafe workplace conditions,” according to a press release shared to its Facebook page, volunteering to teach virtually for the day. “This is not a strike,” they clarified.

The Little Rock School District tells Yahoo Life that discipline for the 69 participating employees will be handled as “individual personnel matters.”

In a statement provided to Yahoo Life, Arkansas Commissioner of Education Johnny Key called the protest an “absurd, 11th-hour scheme to create even more disruption” for families and students in the Little Rock School District.

“I am confident the union’s scheming will be soundly rejected by truly student-focused educators,” he added.

The University of Denver suspends 38 swimmers and divers from athletic participation for attending a party that violated COVID-19 restrictions.

Officials at the University of Denver in Colorado made a drastic move on Thursday, suspending 38 men’s and women’s swimming and diving athletes from team activities for violating state and local health orders, according to a school letter. “All of the 38 student-athletes are required to retest for COVID-19 and we imposed location restrictions until negative test results are received, and possibly longer,” wrote chancellor Jeremy Haefner.

“The students attended a large party, well aware that it violated gathering limitations. As a result, these student-athletes will not participate in team activities for the rest of the fall quarter and will be referred to the Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) process for disciplinary action, which may include interim academic suspension for the fall quarter pending the outcome of the SRR process,” said the school. “Possible outcomes for these violations may include suspension from the University for one or more academic terms.”

School gatherings are restricted to no more than 10 people, as outlined by the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment. According to the university dashboard, 216 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 31. Students began moving into university housing in staggered groups on Sept. 7 and classes, offered both in-person and virtually, resumed Sept. 14.

The West Virginia University, Penn State University and Northeastern University are just some of the schools that have increasingly enforced consequences for student parties, be it postponing in-person classes, canceling spring break or publicly scolding rule-breakers.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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