Four days into the school year, two students in the Janesville School District have tested positive for coronavirus, and some classmates are being told to quarantine for 14 days.
In an email in response to a Gazette request, district spokesman Patrick Gasper said two students in two different schools have tested positive for coronavirus. He would not say which schools.
The Gazette heard from two parents that one of the schools was Craig High School.
Gasper said the two students had no symptoms when they attended their schools last week but later tested positive.
“There is no evidence the students obtained COVID-19 at school,” the email states.
The district would not say how many students were told to quarantine.
Revealing the number of students affected would violate rules that say schools may not reveal “personally identifiable information,” Gasper said.
The district does not plan to use virtual learning because of these incidents “at this time,” Gasper said.
Gasper said he knows of no staff member who has tested positive.
Custodians are following county health department guidance for classrooms occupied by a person who tested positive, Gasper said.
The guidance says to ventilate and wait at least 24 hours, if possible, and then to clean and disinfect the room, Gasper said.
Families have been notified by letter about quarantining or, if they are at lower risk, are told to monitor for symptoms, Gasper said.
“The Rock County Public Health Department is managing all communications with families and conducting all the follow-up interviews/contact tracing,” the email states.
“Staff in buildings affected have been notified of the positive test results and that any staff directly impacted had a direct conversation with a building administrator,” the email continues.
The email says student and staff health information and “student communicable disease-related information” are confidential by law.
“Even if a family/student acknowledges and publicly discloses a positive test, school staff and officials will not participate in discussions or acknowledge a positive test result if personally identifiable information is involved,” the email reads.
Gasper provided copies of letters sent to parents Friday by Director of Pupil Services Kim Peerenboom—one letter to the parents of children who were in “close contact” with the infected students and one to parents whose children shared classroom or other space with the student but are not being required to quarantine.
The letter for students required to quarantine states in part: “Persons within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes are considered close contacts and are at increased risk of developing this infection. A person who is a close contact with someone during their potential infectious period is required to self-quarantine for at least 14-days after the most recent contact. You are receiving this letter because your child has shared a classroom or other gathering space with the tested individual and meets the criteria of a close contact. Your child is required to self-quarantine.”
The other letter states in part:
“You are receiving this letter because your child has shared a classroom or other gathering space with the tested individual, but did NOT meet the criteria of a close contact and is NOT required to self-quarantine.
“The Rock County Public Health Department or the Wisconsin State Contact Tracing Team has completed a full investigation with this individual and determined that your child has had limited contact with the infected person,” the letter continues. “Although we must protect the privacy of the person involved, the health and safety of our staff and students is a top priority. …”
The letter goes on to give the school name and date the infected student last attended “to help you make a well-informed decision for your family.”
“The Rock County Public Health Department has been in contact with the positive individual and anyone who has been deemed a close contact. These students and staff are in home quarantine and will only be allowed to return once they have met the state of Wisconsin release criteria.
“As mentioned above, your child has not been identified as being at significant risk of exposure and may continue to attend school in-person. If your child exhibits any symptoms of COVID-19, we ask that you keep him/her home and seek the advice of your medical provider immediately.”
The letter refers any parent questions to the Rock County Public Health Department, 608-757-5440, or the family physician.
“The presence of COVID-19 in individuals in our schools is reflective of the presence of COVID-19 in the greater Janesville community,” Gasper wrote. “We must all continue working together to minimize the risk and spread of this disease,” the email continues. “This serves as a good reminder to the entire community to continue wearing their face masks, wash hands thoroughly and frequently, to monitor for symptoms, and to stay home when sick.”
When Jessie Willyerd was a little girl riding in cars, she would imagine she was riding a horse.
Horses stuck with her, and last week Willyerd was painting horses on the side of the Fredendall Building, 37 S. Main St. in Janesville.
Not just any horses. Carousel horses. Willyerd and her fellow 2003 Craig High School graduate Tim Cahill were honoring a 30-year downtown business just around the corner, the second-hand shop Carousel Consignments.
Willyerd was thinking of other young girls who will notice her horses as their parents drive by the busy corner of Court and Main streets.
“It will give them something to imagine,” she said.
Willyerd hadn’t talked to the folks at Carousel Consignments about the mural, though. Tears clouded the eyes of Carousel co-owner Joni Bozart when she heard about it last week.
“That just blows me away. That’s just the nicest thing,” Bozart said.
Bozart was so overwhelmed she left her shop to thank the artists. Husband and business partner Larry Bozart, meanwhile, commented wryly that the mural was on a neighboring building the Bozarts don’t own.
The mural was one of five created during the Art Infusion 2020 mural project over the past week.
The new murals give the downtown a fresh look, and they combine older murals and ongoing efforts to turn the district into a tourist draw and point of community pride.
Willyerd also included a more subtle image of a raven in the mural, a nod to a place most Janesville artist know and love, Raven’s Wish Art Gallery, located across the river a few blocks away.
“I think it’s just about letting people know that artists are a part of the community, too,” Willyerd said when asked if she was excited to be making a mark on her hometown.
“It’s definitely a gratifying experience to make something that potentially will be here for a while,” Cahill said.
The murals almost didn’t happen.
The Art Infusion committee applied for grants for a mural fest, didn’t get any and shelved the project, spokeswoman Nigella Ryan said.
Then came the coronavirus in late March. By May, committee members “thought it would be nice to have something positive and a reason to have people outside,” Ryan said.
Local donors agreed, and it wasn’t hard to raise $50,000, Ryan said. Some donated scaffolding and primer paint.
Finding walls for murals was harder. Some owners were bound by historical restoration agreements. Others were not sure a mural would be a good look for them.
Five walls were chosen, and about six artists applied for each of them, Ryan said. A committee picked a first and second choice for each wall, and the building owners had the option of picking one or the other.
Each mural has a story:
Brown, of Kenosha, said her art partner from Tunisia is world renowned, having made murals in Canada to Morocco, Bahrain, Australia, Russia and Malaysia.
Brown’s design looks at first like a mishmash of geometric shapes. But she did her homework. The shapes reflect the city’s heritage.
The triangles on the top left represent the city’s forward thinking, the zigzag pattern the river, the strip along the right is a stylized head of wheat, a nod to local agriculture, she said.
The tube-like structures are fallen trees, recalling the lumber industry’s role in the city’s early development. The vertical stripes represent railroads. The large and small purple circles are the head and body of a woman who is looking downward at her work, symbolizing the home and families as the heartbeat of the city.
“I feel Janesville has a very family-friendly atmosphere and charm to it, and this is kind of a nod to that,” Brown said.
Brown said those who stopped to chat about the piece touched her and Jabbari: “It was one of the friendliest cities we’ve ever worked with. Everyone was lovely, kind, generous and absolutely ideal.”
Henriquez’s theme is diversity and women’s history, said Christine Rebout of the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Krellwitz says she had no idea The Lark features dozens of origami cranes hanging in its window. Her inspiration was the 200 origami birds she made one August about seven years ago when, as a schoolteacher, she was dealing with back-to-school depression.
Zimmerman, who goes by the artist name Bigshot Robot, is from Milwaukee. His inspiration is 1990s TV cartoons such as “Rocko’s Modern Life.”
Zimmerman was approached by some building owners last week to do another mural behind the 100 block of West Milwaukee Street. He said Saturday he would love to do it, but the weather could cancel that plan.
Building owners who didn’t get involved this year might look forward to next year, when Ryan said another mural fest is planned.
Contracts call for the murals to be preserved for at least three years.
“That’s the usual boilerplate for murals, but then they just end up staying indefinitely,” Zimmerman said.
City of murals, anyone?
Here's a list of new murals worth checking out this weekend in Janesville.
Some people spend a lifetime seeking something they love to do.
Michael Hilliger went to his first day of kindergarten with drawings to show his teacher. He can’t remember a time he didn’t want to work in animation, TV or film.
The UW-Stout student majors in animation, and he has won awards for his work while making waves in the little pond that is his hometown.
Two years ago, Hilliger approached Kristin Mickelson, who manages Whitewater Community TV for the city of Whitewater. Maybe an editing job, he thought.
Mickelson, impressed by the young man’s work, asked him to research, write and produce a series about Whitewater landmarks.
The work has become Hilliger’s summer job. He has since made seven episodes of “Gems of Whitewater,” an entertaining, compelling documentary series on cable channel 990. More are in the works.
His Starin Park Water Tower episode was recently awarded best program by a college student in the Midwest Media Festival, a competition run by Wisconsin Community Media, an association of community-based cable channels. It was the third award he received for the series over the past two years.
The episodes combine deep background in Whitewater history, local interviews, close-ups of old newspaper articles, Hilliger’s animated cartoons and his narration and music with the help of Haley Dieter, a fellow Whitewater High School grad.
“She’s awesome,” Hilliger said of Dieter, who contributes more than music: “She helps out on episodes, whenever I need another set of eyes on something ... She makes the show better.”
The episode about the Starin Park Water Tower features a simple cartoon showing how the 131-year-old tower maintains the pressure that keeps water pouring out of taps all over this city of 15,000.
Hilliger’s script is well written, guiding viewers with facts, simply stated: 104 feet high, 188,000 gallon capacity. Reputation for being haunted.
The water tower episode is Hilliger’s favorite. He fretted about making it because everyone in town is familiar with the folklore about supposed supernatural phenomena associated with the structure.
At the same time, he wanted to be truthful. The folklore is simply word of mouth with few facts. Hilliger’s script makes that clear as he tackles the stories, such as the one about a supposed witch named Mary Worth:
“There are no clear traces to the origins of Mary Worth, at least not from what we’ve seen.”
Another part of the water tower episode features a “haunted” book that supposedly drives its readers to madness. The book is an impressive object. Hilliger tracked it down and filmed it a UW-Whitewater’s Andersen Library, but it’s just a big, old Christian hymnal with a metal latch, written in Latin.
Hilliger has more work in progress than just the Whitewater series. He is getting close to completing a short animation that he hopes one day will land him a job.
Whatever his future, people will be watching his “Gems” series for years to come and hearing Hilliger’s breezy introduction: “There’s a lot of history behind this Wisconsin town, so let’s talk about it.”
Robert “Bob” Anderson
Aaron M. Arndt
Richard A. Coplien
Merlyn “Red” Dahl
Laura A. Enright
Rosetta “Rose” Fasel
Elaine D. Green
Bettie M. Haney
Helen Virginia Karp
Remy C. Konitzer
Darlene J. “Dee” Nelson
Janet “Jan” Schieldt
Elaine C. Schumacher
John J. Treslley II
Michael Goldstein knows the transition from adolescence to adulthood, especially for college students, can be brutal.
Moving away from home, making new friends and learning new routines often create anxiety.
“Mental health has been a real challenge on college campuses in the last 10 years,” Goldstein said. “Depression, anxiety, suicide have increased. On one hand, we have all this social media to connect us, but it can actually lead to more loneliness.”
Add a pandemic to the mix, and student stress levels skyrocket.
But Goldstein has a remedy.
Reducing stress might be as simple as learning how to breathe.
Goldstein is the chief author of an article published earlier this summer on the benefits of yogic breathing to manage stress.
The 2005 Craig High School graduate lives in Boston, where he is a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University.
His work is important because suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States for people ages 15 to 34.
During the last decade, anxiety and depression have steadily increased on college campuses to the point where university counseling centers are overburdened, Goldstein said.
“Now the pandemic and heavy reminders of racial inequities have only further exacerbated the student mental health crisis,” Goldstein said.
The article in the Journal of American College Health reports on research for Goldstein’s dissertation in the clinical psychology program at the University of Arizona.
Goldstein’s rigorous clinical-trial study compared two wellness interventions for college students.
One emphasized breathing techniques, mindfulness and social connection to manage stress and improve overall well-being. Students learned yogic breathing and took part in discussions to promote social connections, leadership skills and community service.
The second intervention, known as the cognitive method, focused on talking about how to respond to stress, time management, study skills, sleep habits and nutrition.
Students had fun and enjoyed the cognitive method.
“But the focus was on the science of stress and strategies to think their way out of stress,” Goldstein said. “Sometimes, no matter how clever we think we are, we can’t think our way out of a stressful situation. The harder we try, the stronger the feeling of helplessness or loneliness.”
The yogic- or healthy-breathing method took a different approach. It taught skills of awareness or mindfulness and a connection with the body through breathing.
“When we are focused on our breathing, it gives us something concrete to focus on versus being carried away by our thoughts,” Goldstein said. “We can feel more stable and be more connected with our breathing.”
The workshop trained students to recognize stress and discomfort as a normal part of everyday life.
“So, rather than trying to conquer stress, students learn how to develop a capacity to experience discomfort without suffering,” Goldstein said. “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
About 70 students took part in both methods from 2014 to 2017.
Those trained in yogic breathing showed no changes in their breathing and only slight changes in their heart rates during stress tests.
The cognitive group showed significant increases in their breathing and heart rates during the same tests.
“When doing some kind of breathing practice, we can spare our hearts,” Goldstein said.
Cognitive strategies are still helpful, but they are greatly boosted with breathing techniques, he added.
Another study, independent of Goldstein’s, took place at Yale University using the same yogic breathing and cognitive interventions. Yogic breathing also showed the greatest improvements in the Yale study.
Goldstein hopes the information will be useful to educators, who can make breathing and mindfulness part of the school curriculum.
“More research is needed to better understand the effects,” Goldstein said. “But with all the upheaval in the world, strategies that focus on breathing and mindfulness can be useful. I don’t think they are the be-all, end-all. But they are undervalued.”
He called it more cost-effective for universities to hire lecturers to teach these interventions than to keep adding staff to “their already overburdened campus health services.”
“It is imperative we teach college students life skills for resilience and social connection, alongside academics,” Goldstein said.
Yogic-breathing programs are available online, so students can do them virtually in the age of COVID-19.
But Goldstein recommends a teacher be involved to help each person practice accurately.
He described himself as passionate about helping young adults who are discovering their identities.
“It can be a pivotal time to develop skills to manage stress and to stay connected,” he said.
During Goldstein’s undergraduate work, he volunteered as a counselor at a youth and family-crisis center. At the University of Arizona, he also worked as a therapist, which led to his dissertation study. His current research at Harvard focuses on sleep.
He is optimistic about the future of breathing techniques to reduce stress.
“There’s hope,” he said. “Breathing is a valuable tool we’re always carrying with us.”