With three straight weeks of mostly upward trending statistics surrounding COVID-19 in our Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, now might be the right time for our administration and Board of Education to look at how to strategically move the target on regulations.
Student quarantines have risen each week since before they were officially back in the buildings on Aug. 25, with 120 and 168 reported on the district’s weekly dashboard since Aug. 24.
Since Aug. 16, total individual student cases have topped 100 (42 in this week's update.) Staff cases have tallied 29 in the three updates, with just one staff case reported between Aug. 31-Sept. 6.
Not surprisingly, elementary quarantines continue to make up for the vast majority of overall numbers, in large part due to a combination of our under-12 students' ineligibility for the vaccine as well as the close quarters students find themselves in during lunch and recess. During which, they are not required to wear a mask.
So how do we ever mitigate the risks and lessen, if at all possible, quarantine time for our elementary students?
First and foremost, we should be allowing children back to school with a 7-days-after-exposure negative COVID test. Even with the Delta variant seemingly harder on our pre-teen students, the numbers are still minuscule comparatively. Continuing with 14-day quarantines only repeats last year’s pattern of lost educational time, lost musical time, lost time at recess and in P.E. and lost time socializing with friends, participating in clubs and having essential time in front of teachers.
Another step our elementary schools can take is to move lunch outside for the foreseeable future.
So many of our quarantines in the past two weeks are coming from lunchroom exposure, which, outside of recess, is really the only time our youngest learners are around one another without a mask. And it stands to reason we will continue booting kids from our buildings for 14 days until we find an alternative to inside lunch.
The facilities and building administrators would need to logistically look at outdoor areas, seating, recess times, yes. But I am guessing if we got creative, we could find a way to get outside and virtually eliminate our elementary students’ time without masks indoors altogether.
Recess has been another source of quarantines at the elementary level, too, which begs the question: if we are sending kids home for an apparent exposure outside, why are we letting kids outside without masks? If the answer is because we know outdoor spread and contact is extremely rare, then why are we sending kids home? This is a chicken-and-egg dilemma the district needs to tackle soon.
Our school district, to this point, has shown some ability to move the conversation around rules and targets. Let’s continue to encourage our elected officials and administrators at the Stansberry Leadership Center to constantly ask how we can best serve our students, in the building, while lessening risk as much as possible.