CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Two weeks into the school year, Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls had to send out a warning to students about a birthday party.
The Sweet 16 birthday party happened in Summit County over the weekend. And now multiple school leaders and health officials are trying to identify everyone in attendance in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
In an email, Walsh Jesuit High School asks students who attended the party to virtually learn at home for two weeks. Walsh Jesuit President, Karl Ertle says students were on deadline to self-identify to the school and agree to learn from home. The school warned of consequences if a student insisted on attending in-person school if they were at the party.
“We gave them from last night just after dinner, until 10 a.m. this morning. Then they will be dismissed from the school. It’s that serious. We felt that we needed to make a statement to all of our families and support the health of all,” says Ertle.
After seeing pictures confirming the party, school administrators reached out to Summit County Health for advice. Due to possible COVID-19 exposure, Summit County Public Health Commissioner, Donna Skoda says the department suggested local high schools track down all students at the party in case contact tracing is necessary in the future.
“We sort of hold our breath for two weeks. Because it’s a whole lot easier now to do it, to remember whose been there than it is to try to do it two weeks from away from now,” says Skoda.
Students at the party are from Walsh Jesuit High School and other local schools, which is why school leaders are now working with other local superintendents.
“Several (school leaders) reached out over the weekend as word got out over this. They’ve been supportive. Some of the schools wanted to receive images, some are just investigating and doing this as a teaching moment within their own communities,” says Ertle.
It’s too soon to know if anyone at the party was exposed to COVID-19, however health experts want everyone who attended or is connected to someone who attended the party to be aware of the potential risk.
“For the next two weeks we want to watch everyone who was there. They should really watch their symptoms, stay away from folks, wear a mask, practice social distancing as much as you can,” says Skoda.
WKYC found one picture from the event, of teenagers all dressed in white having fun. In the picture, no one is wearing a mask or social distancing. We’re refraining from showing the picture due to so many unidentified underage students.