By Jon King /

A Livingston County school has been forced to close for a second straight day due to COVID-related staffing shortages.

According to a message sent out Tuesday afternoon, Southwest Elementary School in Howell will be closed again on Wednesday today due to what were described as “staffing constraints.” The school was closed on Tuesday for the same reason. The communication from Southwest Principal Jennifer Goodwin stated that they expect to return to classroom instruction on Thursday when they “expect several staff members to return to school.”

The closures this week follow the identification last week by the Livingston County Health Department (LCHD) that multiple COVID clusters had been identified at both Southwest Elementary and Highlander Way Middle School. Highlander Way was forced to close on Friday and will be using online learning for the remainder of this week.

Goodwin reminded parents that when their kids do return to classes they will need to wear a “well-fitted mask” through Friday, January 28th. It was also recommended that Southwest students undergo at least one “provider-administered” COVID test. In all, five clusters were identified at Southwest involving 55 cases among students and staff in multiple grades.

Goodwin said that while the LCHD has identified the cases as part of the clusters, “it does not mean that all of the individuals were in school while contagious, which leads to a difference between the number of cases reported by the LCHD and the number of cases reported by the school.”

Livingston County school districts have resisted putting across-the-board mask mandates into effect and instead have taken advantage of an alternate plan put forward by the Livingston County Health Department (LCHD) allowing students to avoid quarantine if they wear a mask, do not have any symptoms and take an at-home COVID test provided by the district.