COVID CAUSES CLASSROOM CLOSURES
By Clarence B. Wright
The hustle and bustle of school children has taken on a different sound in 2020. The sound of laughter has been replaced with a deafening silence.
Parents of students from the Early Childhood Center were informed late Tuesday night that at least three positive cases of COVID-19 have reached the ECC. Although only three positive cases were reported, through contact tracing several more were required to quarantine by the McClain County Health Department, including family members and ECC staff members. More than 14 staff members were affected and unable to report for duty. Due to the large number affected, the Newcastle Public School district made the decision to move to distance learning via ZOOM and Google Classroom.
“Our goal is to always provide quality instruction while keeping all students and staff safe and healthy,” ECC Principal Jennifer Rosenbloom said.
The building was immediately disinfected as a part of the weekly routine COVID procedures. Staff members currently unaffected were on hand contacting families affected by COVID and offering support, as well as lunches to students via a drive thru service at the ECC. The school will continue to provide lunch, as well as breakfast to students through the closure, which is currently scheduled to end Sept. 29.
Devices are available for students who are in need of them. Parents are asked to contact their teachers to arrange a checkout/pick up time. Students are still required to check-in for a mandatory daily attendance count.
Rosenbloom released the following statement on Wednesday: “Please remember to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and wear a mask. If your family has been affected with a quarantine situation, please understand the importance of quarantining away from other people. It is important to not have playdates with other students who have been quarantined to limit exposure. Should your child/children start exhibiting COVID related symptoms, it is strongly recommended that you contact their primary care physician or the local health department to have them tested. Individuals who have had an exposure and do not display symptoms may consider being tested to prevent spread to others. Ideal times to test after an exposure for an asymptomatic individual is five to seven days from the last date of exposure and/or 15 days from the last date of exposure after the quarantine is complete. Please note that a negative test result during one’s quarantine does not rule out the risk of testing positive later in the quarantine.”
The district is currently working on contact tracing for other possible positive cases at the high school and ECC. Once that process has been completed, parents will be notified, and the Pacer will share that information as an update to this article online at www.newcastlepacer.com.
UPDATE: Superintendent Melonie Hau hosted a live video conference informing parents and community members of updated COVID information. In addition to moving the ECC to distance learning, the high school is now also strictly distance learning.
“When we made the decision to switch to distance learning, we were hoping that we could go a little longer before we needed to do that, but this is what we practiced for,” Hau said. “We anticipated that this would happen. We have been preparing for it, we had our practice virtual day a couple weeks ago, and that was very successful. Hopefully having that virtual day will make this transition to distance learning much easier.”
Currently the elementary and middle schools remain open, although a class from the elementary school is in quarantine.
The McClain County Health Department require that anyone in contact within six feet of someone who has tested positive for more than 15 minutes, must be quarantined for 14 days.
With 13% of the districts staff out for COVID related reasons, the need for substitute teachers is high. Even though two campuses are closed, two remain open and are in need of assistance.
Anyone wishing to become a sub for the district must pay for, and pass a background check before being hired. If interested, applicants can email Darla Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subs are not required to take a COVID test, but are asked to take a self assessment.
Some students are still participating in athletics, however the football game against Blanchard Friday night has been cancelled.
Be sure to pick up a copy of The Newcastle Pacer that will hit newsstands Wednesday, Sept. 23 for updated information released by the district.