Community update, October 30, 2020
Dr. Lisa Tuttle-Huff
What happened the past two weeks?
Schools are not islands; it was inevitable that when students and teachers returned to Madison classrooms this fall, coronavirus cases would follow them to some extent. Luckily for Madison, the cases aren’t being spread at school, but within family groups and in non-socially distanced activities.
More than two months after the school district welcomed students back for in-person instruction, we are able to tally a precise figure of how many cases have been identified in our schools because of our excellent school nurse, Christina Anspach.
As of Friday, October 30 we have a total number of 11 staff members who have contracted the virus since we started school this fall. There have been a total of 5 students who have contracted the virus. Due to these staff and student cases, we have quarantined a total of 36 employees this year. In addition, we have quarantined 102 students since August.
We have been actively disclosing cases at the school by All Calls and on our dashboard on the front page of our website. Unfortunately, we have had to cancel pre-school for two weeks and send third grade on a remote schedule due to quarantined cases relating to a couple positive staff cases in the elementary last week. Pre-school and third grade will resume in-person school on Monday, November 2, 2020.
In addition, we have also gone remote with grades 9-12 due to several cases at the high school last week. Unfortunately, due to the quarantines related to these cases, we could not acquire enough substitute teachers to fill in for personnel. The majority of the student quarantines came from these cases. High school in-person classes will resume Monday, November 9, 2020.
We share this information to be transparent; however, it is important that you understand why we do not go remote for all students right now.
Why do we believe that in person is better than remote learning right now?
Parents are understandably concerned about the safety of their children at school in the wake of COVID-19. Although we understand that many students live with their grandparents and other vulnerable populations, the best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms.
At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant. Further, the lack of in-person educational options disproportionately harms low-income children and those living with disabilities.
The absence from consistent school can lead to students, especially elementary students, losing skills in reading and writing. Their worlds have been turned upside down at a time when their brain is growing and changing faster than the speed of sound. It is important that students be in school and able to get the immediate help they need to process information.
Where do we go from here?
We want to keep our students in person at Madison. We are asking parents to remember and be aware of these things:
Students are continuing to report to school even though they are showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. We understand that the symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses, but more and more we are being notified of a student testing positive only to find out that they have been in school for multiple days since symptoms began. This puts classmates, teachers and staff at risk.
We have also seen an increase in the number of students who continue to attend school when a family member is being tested, or has tested positive, for COVID-19. If anyone in the home is ill and being tested or has tested positive, everyone must quarantine. While we are not seeing spread in our classrooms, we are seeing spread among families.
Per the Butler County Health Department, when identifying close contacts of a positive case, we must look back to the two days prior to symptoms beginning. A close contact is defined as anyone who was within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more, with or without a mask. As you can imagine, if symptoms begin on a Wednesday and the student continues coming to school for the rest of the week, we must now look for possible close contacts over a much longer time period.
Not only does this impact more students and staff who must quarantine, but it puts additional strain on our nurse and administrators who must spend hours looking at seating charts, checking attendance records and interviewing teachers and students. Please help us continue in-person learning. Perform daily health assessments and stay home if you are sick.
We believe we are doing everything to keep our students as safe as possible. We will continue to communicate with parents. Please be patient with us through some growing opportunities we have experienced. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 513-420-4750 if you have any questions.
Dr. Lisa Tuttle-Huff