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COVID-19 Update from Our Superintendent

COVID-19 Update from Our Superintendent
Posted on 10/30/2020
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Dear School Community,

I hope everyone is doing as well as possible and staying healthy! As October ends, I thought it would be a good time to update you on how the District is handling hybrid learning from a health perspective. Although all of you have a new and emerging perspective on the instruction and learning challenges that our teachers, students, and parents are facing, I wanted to provide some context on the challenges we face from a health perspective.

 

First, I want to publicly praise our faculty, staff, and administrators. As I walked through our buildings over the past few weeks, I see our adults reminding students of our health precautions, embedding classroom procedures that reinforce proper hygiene and masking, and implementing creative instructional approaches that maintain proper social distancing. In fact, I had the pleasure of being in a 1st grade classroom and watching the students enter, keep distanced, go to the hand sanitizing station, give a quick pump, rinse their hands, and have a seat. This doesn’t happen without great reinforcement from the classroom teacher!

 

Nevertheless, despite our best efforts, COVID-19 is still impacting our communities and thus our schools. To date, we have had 12 positive student cases and 4 positive staff cases in the district. As a result, we’ve had to quarantine a number of students and adults for 14 days. To provide transparency for the entire school community, we are publishing a COVID Data Dashboard, which will be updated at the end of each day. You can access the dashboard by clicking here. For county-wide data as well as data that directly relates to the population within the boundaries of the school district, you can access the CCHD dashboard by clicking here

 

In communicating these positive cases, I would like to answer a question I received publicly.   The question is this: 

 

"If the current incidence rates continue, will we need to go back to virtual learning?" 

The Chester County Health Department and the medical experts from CHOP and Penn answered with a qualified "it depends" at our meeting this week. All of the experts believe that districts should focus on "linked transmission" as the most important factor. This means they will look for situations in which individuals, within the same building and/or district, are spreading the virus. Even when this happens, as is the case at the high school, if the group impacted is contained, we will not have to close the entirety of the school. The CCHD also believes strongly that our protocols are working well, and linked transmissions between student and teacher, and/or teacher and student, are limited. They reinforced that we should continue to do what we're doing in regard to stacking health precautions, contact tracing, and quarantining. However, like with everything else during this time, this answer is good for today and will most likely evolve and change in the future. For example, as positivity rates increase, the experts are studying the cases and looking for nuances such as connections to specific places like prisons, retirement homes, etc.  Conversely, should the incidences become so widespread that the health experts cannot trace them, then they  would constitute the positive cases as “community spread” and would necessitate a discussion about going back to virtual learning. The greatest takeaway from this conversation is that our behaviors outside of work and school are paramount to keeping everyone safe. Please continue to mask, social distance, symptom screen, and practice good hygiene by washing your hands often. And, as always, please remain home if you do not feel well. 

 

As a result of the quarantining that goes along with the positive cases our staffing is becoming a major issue. We have allowed those teachers who are asymptomatic to teach from home so that classes can continue; however, this is not possible if they are exhibiting symptoms. Support staff, especially bus drivers, are also a problem because there are simply not enough candidates out there to hire. Although our human resources department along with the cooperation of faculty, staff, and employees are making it work, there could be a time when we will need to make some difficult decisions regarding our instructional delivery model.  

 

I hope this information helps provide context for you as we navigate the days and weeks ahead.  Please continue to follow all of the health precautions and most importantly, if your children have any symptoms, please keep them at home. 

 

Have a great weekend!

Marc

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