Today I am going to share both our weekly COVID updates and some clarity on process to hopefully help everyone better comprehend the challenges we are facing and the decision making processes. From the beginning of the pandemic we have tried to be openly transparent on decisions, information, and process. In some circumstances we have been hugely successful and in some we have fallen short, and are working to improve or correct.
From January 27 through February 2 we experienced 8 positive student cases of Covid, 1 positive staff case, and 75 students placed into quarantine either because of school based close contact or home close contact. The positive cases were 1 at the elementary school, 1 at the middle school, and 6 at the high school. All those who were directly impacted were made aware on the day of the occurrence.
This week our administration of policy and practice was challenged / questioned more than the entire school year combined and that is a result of failed clear communication on my part, fatigue in all of us for the required management and how it is affecting our children, and the added emotion of adding back activities, and the resulting loss of those when quarantines occur. I will attempt to clarify the “why” for you here.
We started the year with the required 14 day quarantine, moved to 10 days when CDC adjusted from mid-November to mid-January because IDPH had not adapted their guidance and FCPH said it was ok. Mid-January IDPH and FCPH came out with clarity that the 10 day quarantine was allowable if certain conditions were met, one of which was 6 feet of social distancing at all times, which we cannot meet with students. At this point I shared out the new IDPH guidance without explanation that we were returning to 14 days and created some confusion. When we made the choice to go full time in person with all kids we did so knowing that we were socially distancing "when possible" as was allowable in State guidance. The benefit to this decision was maximizing face to face learning time which was our top priority, coupled with student and staff safety. The bi-product of that is that when we have a positive case inside our walls kids (more kids) will be quarantined. We have actively found ways to minimize the impact, but some circumstances knock out a lot of kids due to scheduling, classrooms, bus, teams, etc. Our process is not selective, we administer the same rules across buildings and despite the children that it impacts. We have some students who have been quarantined multiple times and that is very hard on kids, families, staff, and now coaches and teams.
GCMS works directly with Ford County Public Health, who answers to the Illinois Department of Public Health, who modifies the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. I understand, respect, and agree that some of the rules we have to follow are strict, confusing, and frustrating. If you have frustration with the policies we must follow I encourage you to advocate with the appropriate governing bodies. I also ask that you do not engage with our school staff (nurses and office staff) in hostile manners when they are following policy and protocols.
I am happy to address concerns or questions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 217-784-8296.
Jeremy Darnell – GCMS Superintendent