School and Virus
Education in the Time of COVID.
We have now been in school a little over a month (August 17, the start of school, to September 20, the time of this article) and we have been affected by COVID. Of course, this is nothing new since we have dealt with COVID since 2020; however, this year is challenging since certain precautions in place last year are removed (mask mandates, plexiglass barriers), others optional (mask optional, vaccine optional), and others no longer funded by the government (hotspots for wifi connectivity).
Yet we started face-to-face in August 2021 and have been fortunate to keep all schools open. Students and occasional classes have been quarantined but not an entire school.
Revisions occur periodically in the “COVID Back to School Plan” posted on the district website. Over the last three weeks, we have tracked the following numbers
Week of Aug. 30
Week of Sept. 6
Week of Sept. 13
112 82 49
279 163 125
10 10 5
6 3 9
The numbers trend in a way we like to see; however, many students have been caught in multiple quarantine situations ... often a student returns from quarantine only to be sent home again days later.
By now, one must assume all of us have been exposed to COVID. Football games -- high school, college, and professional -- are back full bore; activities are at levels pre-COVID.
The most interesting thing from the above numbers is the lack of evidence schools are the direct cause of transmission. Based on the data from the beginning of the year, we have tracked students who were quarantined and who eventually tests positive for COVID.
# Quarantined From Beginning of the Year
# Tested Positive
CHS 312 0 0.0
CMS 241 5 2.1
CES 101 0 0.0
EES 141 4 2.8
JWES 63 2 3.2
MSBCDC 106 1 0.01
It seems schools are not as likely as transmission portals, possibly because of proactive steps such as optional mask-wearing, social distancing, and school procedures to limit spread through other means (e.g., eating lunch in the classroom, teachers moving to classes instead of students, etc.).
All of the above serves as continued data to help us make as informed decisions as possible. We fully recognize there are many more hurdles during the year but schools and activities are running as best as possible.
Shout-outs go to the principals, the teachers, all school staff, and the district for making learning possible in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Ms. Cydni Coker, Ms. Shalina Mode, and the nurses and school-based contact tracers are the behind-the-scene heroes in an epidemic now three school years in the making.
We fully recognize things can go off the rails in an instant but we certainly should celebrate the successes, however small, in a district that truly believes learning is best-done face-to-face and where “the experience matter” A LOT.
Dr. David O’Shields is Superintendent of School District 56.