School officials watch COVID-19 numbers closely

Vandalia School District officials continue to closely monitor COVID-19 figures as they decide whether any changes are needed in the current mode of instruction.
Currently, some Vandalia students are in the classroom on Mondays and Wednesdays, while others are there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Others are in school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and learning online on Mondays and Wednesdays. Fridays are for online learning.
And, some students are remote learning at home five days a week.
The Vandalia Board of Education discussed that issue at length during Tuesday’s meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Garrison said that as of an hour before the meeting, there were 82 students and 12 staff members excluded from school (quarantined), with four positive students and six positive staff members.
“Our safety rules are to stay home if you are sick, so that’s why you see me on the computer tonight instead of in person,” Garrison said.
“I definitely learned is this situational, while we like to have black and white guidelines, I particularly do, (but) every positive case or every exclusion is different,” she said.
“We also have a vocational center – that is 13 school districts, (and) we’re finding that has some tentacles to it as well.
“We have a positive student from another district; those are not counted in the main positives, for clarification, but it still impacts our programs,” she said.
Board member Ryan Lewis said he agrees with Garrison that “it’s situational … but I also think that we need to also make sure that we’re taking care of everybody.
“Mr. (Joe) Lawson, I think you clarified, it doesn’t mean that we shut down right away, we just have the conversation, and we said we would have that.
“So, I think it’s important that we talk about that maybe a little bit more in depth, because I know we still have a lot of tests that have not come back yet,” Lewis said.
“And while I would not want to put any sort of arbitrary threshold on anything, to say once we get to an X number, it’s that.
“But, as the numbers change quickly, I think it’s important that we are keeping a close eye on it. Because, as we can see, as John (Campbell) saw firsthand, one person not following the rules and coming to work sick causes the whole class quarantined.
“So, it’s important to stay on top of it and it’s important that people do what they’re supposed to be doing,” Lewis said.
“ I don’t want us to get to the point where we’re (like) Ramsey (School District), where we’ve got 250 kids out,” he said.
“My philosophy is more, I’d rather not stand there with the fire extinguisher and wait for the firemen to put it out; I would prefer that we not allow the fire to start,” Lewis said.
Lawson said, “My view is I want us to be safe and stay in school as much as possible.
“It’s such an up-and-down number. One day, you can have 130 excluded and the next day 80 because (before) the test results come back, those families all come back to school,” Lawson said.
“We each have to do our due diligence, and if we’re not feeling good, just stay home,” he said.
Lawson said it’s important for everyone “to know their own bodies,” to know whether something they are feeling may be something they normally go through this time of year or is something different or worse.
Board member Connie Goldsmith said, “I also don’t want to close any more than we have to, because I think we have to balance out the kids, the students.
“I think a lot about their emotional health, their mental health, their socialization, all those things that come along with school that aren’t academic and can’t be done online remotely,” she said.
“So, I’m not saying just keep going until there’s 250 people excluded, but I am saying that it’s a balancing act, where we have to take into account several different situations,” Goldsmith said.
“I want to stay open as long as we can, as often as we can have the same conditions,” she said.
Board member Kevin Satterthwaite said, “Yes, obviously, health has to be the main concern, but I, personally, don’t think we’re there yet (as to going all remote).
“We’re certainly going to keep an eye on things,” he said, “just continuing to monitor, be aware.
“I don’t think we, as a board, need to take it for granted (that) if we’re remote we’re automatically going to forever be remote.
“We have to be conscious of what’s going on and monitor it, and stay in touch, and I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that,” Satterthwaite said.
“And I realize that with some of the shifts we’ve seen in some of the numbers, (with) some concerns being raised, but I don’t think I’m ready to change the original position,” he said.
Garrison said, “From when we started school to now, the exclusion definition has changed for Vandalia schools specifically, be very clear, that’s not speaking for other districts, that when we have close contact (with a positive), that if we have any siblings or staff members in our buildings, they’re excluded as well.
“That change was based on what they’re seeing locally in schools. I asked to take the recommendation of the Fayette County Health Department, and agree with them,” she said.
“I’m just clarifying – the exclusion definition has changed within the last two weeks. So, the incident we had yesterday, we excluded more individuals this week, under the new definition, than we did two weeks ago,” Garrison said.
“Staying home when you’re sick, it’s very hard for me,” she said. “In the past, no matter what, I would have been there with you, but I’m trying to follow our rules.”

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