Dear Bloom-Carroll Community,
The holiday season is upon us and I hope all of our Bulldog families are finding ways to enjoy the holidays safely. It is clear that the coronavirus cases in our county, state, and nation have risen to concerning levels. As I write this message, the data we currently have about our district does not point us in the direction of a status level change. Our district’s virus data, staffing levels, and quarantine numbers could change rapidly justifying the need to close school and transition to another instructional status level. However, I wish to give you an update on what current virus data we are seeing in our district, the safety measures we will continue to implement, and some insight into the decision making process during these difficult times.
Every case involving a student or staff member is reported by our school nurse and COVID-19 Coordinator to the FDH. The FDH reports every district case to the ODH. The data is updated weekly at www.coronavirus.ohio.gov
As of 12/3/20, the Ohio Department of Education (http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Reset-and-Restart) reported:
245 (40.2%) of Ohio’s public schools are attending in-person 5 days per week;
177 (29.1%) of schools are attending on a hybrid schedule;
185 (30.4%) are fully remote; and,
2 (0.3%) are closed.
When school started on August 24th, we had 3 active cases and over 43 students in quarantine.
As I draft this message, the BCLSD currently has six (6) active cases (4 students and 2 staff).
Our district consists of 2,358 students and staff (2,133 students and 225 staff).
1,971 students (92.4%) are choosing to attend in-person instruction. 162 students (7.6%) are attending school fully online through our Virtual Learning Academy.
0.25% (6/2,358 x 100=0.25%) of our students and staff are active COVID cases compared to 1.39% (2,192/157,574 x 100 = 1.39%) active cases among Fairfield County residents.
At this moment there are 60 students in quarantine from school related cases – 2.8% of our K-12 student population.
Our daily absenteeism percentage for our four school buildings has consistently ranged between 4-12%, which is consistent with pre-pandemic attendance percentages this time of year. The absenteeism includes students absent for family vacations, personal illness, and students quarantined due to positive family members or school cases.
Several of the positive cases were due to exposure to a positive parent or household member while in quarantine.
The BCLSD updates our COVID-19 Active Case Dashboard weekly. https://www.bloom-carroll.k12.oh.us/COVID-19Dashboard.aspx
Every instructional status level – in-person, hybrid, and fully remote – has its benefits and consequences. Throughout the pandemic many individuals have had strong opinions about how schools should be operating, and we have provided educational options for our families to accommodate those opinions. From the beginning, our Restart and Safety plan has always stated our plans are subject to change based upon evolving conditions, data about the status of the pandemic, and recommendations and guidance from health authorities and the scientific community.
After four months of school, we now have data from across the nation and data specific to our district. As recently as late November, Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that schools are one of the safest places for children during the pandemic. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has repeatedly stated that the risk of a school closure is far greater than the risk of students attending school in-person even if six feet of social distancing cannot be achieved. The AAP has found that spacing desks at least 3 feet apart may have similar benefits - especially if students wear masks. Even when we were operating under the Yellow Status Hybrid Schedule, we have never been able to establish six feet of social distance between students due to our classroom size and available space except in a few small elective or special education classes. In addition, roughly 1,000 students – one-half of our students - were kept from in-person instruction each day on the hybrid schedule.
We have effectively implemented many mitigation and prevention safety procedures including but not limited to our students and staff wearing masks, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of classrooms and high-touch frequency surface areas, and cooperation of daily health assessments. We have distributed face masks, face shields, gloves, and disinfecting wipes to our staff.
Every Thursday, the ODH updates the COVID-19 Advisory Risk Level for each county. Our plan has always stated our instructional status level may fluctuate depending on Fairfield County’s risk level; however, our status is not solely contingent upon the county’s alert level. Doing so could result in the change of our instructional status every Thursday, which is not realistic or beneficial for our students, families, or staff.
Schools provide more than just academics to children. In addition to reading, writing and math, students learn social and emotional skills, get exercise, and have access to mental health support and other services that cannot be provided with online learning. For many children, schools are safe places to be while parents or guardians are working. For many families, schools are where children receive healthy meals, access to the internet and other vital services.
I have concerns about many things associated with the pandemic and focus my efforts on doing what data supports is best for students. I worry about the safety of our students and staff and the district has implemented mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of virus spread while keeping schools open. I worry about this year’s first graders – last year’s kindergarten class – who are trying to learn to read if schools are closed. I worry about all of our children who access health services, counseling services, and nutrition at school. I worry about our high school juniors and seniors who in the last two school years are making efforts to plan for their futures’ including college or career training. I worry about the achievement gap between our special education students and our economically disadvantaged students that continues to widen when schools are not fully open. I worry about our students without adequate high-speed internet access at home. I worry about our students whose child-care accommodations do not allow the child to participate in virtual instruction during the scheduled remote learning time. I worry about our high school students who come to school only because of their passion for performing arts, visual arts, or athletics. I worry about how different their lives could be in the future if they do not have access to opportunities such as scholarships that can be life-changing. I worry for our students whose families have called me to communicate concerns about their child’s mental health and depression due to lost opportunities and experiences schools typically provide. There are so many things to worry about that have been caused by this pandemic. We have to look at what is actually happening in our buildings and make decisions that are best for our students.
At this moment, we have been able to effectively and safely manage our operations because we have a dedicated professional staff. Some school districts have had to transition to all online learning due to insufficient staffing levels and/or large numbers of student and staff quarantines. Some of those districts have been able to return to in-person instruction. I commend our staff for strategically approaching their workdays to make every attempt to maintain six feet of distance from students and other staff and to monitor the amount of time spent within six feet of students. Their efforts inside and outside of the school day have largely contributed to our ability to stay open safely for in-person instruction.
In closing, it is important our families and staff understand the dynamics of leading our district during this unprecedented pandemic. We will continue to monitor our district’s data daily, continue with the prevention strategies, and encourage all of our families and staff to take precautions inside and outside of school. The district is asking for your help to keep our schools open. Please wear a mask, wash your hands often, and socially distance, when possible. All of these precautions taken on school grounds and outside of school will help keep our schools open and students learning in the classroom.