LOSS OF LEARNING ALARMS SCHOOL OFFICIALS
School officials continue to be alarmed about the decline in learning for students attending school in-person. High absenteeism due to COVID-19 guarantee protocols is resulting in a significant loss in classroom time for many students. For students attending in-person classes, fewer hours translates into a decline in learning, compared to a normal year. While it’s hard to know how much students are falling behind, the results will likely show up in future testing. Absenteeisms discussions have surfaced during the past two school board meetings with the latest coming during the board’s October meeting. School board members are clearly frustrated by the situation and the lack of an immediate solution to the problem. “We’re sending too many healthy kids home,” says school board member Randy Glover. “It’s not the number of positive cases that are causing the problem. It’s the COVID-19 quarantine protocol,” explained Director of Schools Barry Smith, noting the school system had elected to follow Center For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines at all schools. In most cases, students, teachers and staff members are required to be quarantined 14 days for possible exposure to an individual testing positive for COVID-19. Besides an individual testing positive for the virus, a quarantine is required for anyone being within six feet of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 for 10 to 15 minutes. Board member Mark Jones questioned whether the school system could not waiver from those guidelines, making the guarantee period shorter for those students who have not tested positive for the virus. School Board Attorney Jamie Winkler noted CDC guidelines were not law. However, the attorney pointed out, while there may be disagreement with the guidelines and the school board was free to set its own health safety guidelines for the virus, straying from CDC guidelines could create a certain amount of legal exposure for the school system. During previous discussions, Director Smith has noted to school board members a number of legal situations have arose from health guidelines since school began. Also during the discussion to find a resolution to reducing the number of absenteeisms, school board member Marty McCaleb suggested looking into placing some type of barrier (such as Plexiglas) in classrooms (if feasible).
(During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Director Smith noted 676 students and school system employees were following some type of COVID-19 quarantine protocol.)
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