Green Not: Life on a School Board In the Era of COVID-19

My county’s COVID-19 re-entry plan includes following the state’s color code system. Green on the state’s COVID map means that no new cases or a minimal amount of transmissions have been recorded.  The county was yellow when we first let students back in school two weeks ago on a blended model which splits class size in half, each half going to school two days per week and remote learning for two days per week; it turned green last week, amidst lots of celebrating. Then reality struck. Perhaps we met the criteria for code green a few days ago, but green is not a predictor of what’s coming down the virus pipeline.

So here we are, unable to find enough substitutes or achieve a fast enough turn-around time for test results, in a community divided over how to proceed. Low on the learning curve, we can only hope that we can meet both of those challenges, encourage—if not mandate—that anyone sick enough to be tested needs to quarantine regardless of whether or not they have already received test results. Our absentee policies for students and staff allow for this response without consequences.

Texts from the superintendent:

“FYI- We are having to quarantine another group of students and staff at HEMS due to two students testing positive. These students are in a different cohort than the one positive earlier this week. So, with that said, this is a new issue that we don’t believe was contracted because of school. In this situation, we have to quarantine over 100 students and 14 staff members. We can’t get enough subs to cover classes here and in the rest of the district. Therefore, I am closing HEMS to face-to-face instruction, and all instruction will move to remote or virtual through October 8th. Staff that don’t need to quarantine will still report to the school during this time. This also ensures that we can assist with food service and meals. Press release is going out soon. Justin, director of middle schools, was just interviewed by the local TV station. You will probably see something soon.”

“FYI- Unfortunately, this is not a repeat message . . . We are having to quarantine another group of students and staff at Milton Middle School due to two (siblings) students testing positive. Therefore, I am closing Milton Middle for face-to-face instruction, and all instruction will move to remote or virtual through a date to be determined by the health department. Staff that don’t need to quarantine will still report to the school during this time. We believe that Huntington Middle School will have some students who will need to quarantine too, as the Milton student is a football player and the team played HMS on Monday. We are still working through everything. I will keep you posted.”

My school board voted to keep a blended model for the semester despite the governor’s metrics, in which I have little confidence. Solution? In this fluid situation, there are few options other than vigilance, patience, and flexibility.

Published by Carole J. Garrison

I’m a conversationalist, an observer, a passionate participant in life. And now, in my later years, I’m a recorder of the lessons of my life through essays, stories, and novels. I live in the fourth moment of life, just outside the normal distribution of most people and it is from this place that I write.

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