The following letter was sent to district families, employees and other stakeholders on December 16:
Last week, the district sent out a letter to address our stakeholders’ concerns, and the misinformation they were receiving, about the number of positive COVID-19 cases in our schools. This was also done in the wake of Wood Elementary’s move to virtual instruction, a decision based on the district’s 10% metric that was created to put parameters around the decision-making process on when to close schools as a result of COVID-19.
With the return from break on January 4, 2021, we plan to adjust that 10% metric, as you will read in this letter. At this time, we also plan to return with 5-day face-to-face instruction for students enrolled in in-person learning, along with the full-time Virtual Academy.
Reporting and Definitions
To repeat from last week, Lexington Two takes seriously reporting positive cases to the community and to the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Accurate reporting of positive COVID-19 cases, close contacts and quarantines is a legal requirement. Per DHEC, a positive case is when an individual has received a confirmed positive COVID-19 test result certified through DHEC guidelines. That person is required to be excluded from school for a recommended period of time. An active positive case does not mean that someone contracted the virus at school. As of the morning of December 16, there were 30 active positive students.
Another source of confusion is understanding what “quarantined” means. Quarantined means someone has been identified by a COVID positive individual as a close contact per CDC/DHEC guidelines. If someone is quarantined, it does not mean the individual is a positive COVID-19 case, nor does it mean they were exposed to a positive case at the school. However, quarantining does allow exposed individuals to be separated from others to see whether that person becomes positive. As of the morning of December 16, of the roughly 572 students who have been in quarantine across the district at some point since the start of the 2020-21 school year, only 12 have turned out to be positive for COVID-19.
That’s out of nearly 8,500 students.
The 10% Rule and School Closures
Back in October, the Board of Trustees wished to have, and approved, a metric that would provide some sort of structure, or expectation, for school closure upon returning face-to-face. That metric is the “10% Rule,” which is when 10% of students in a classroom or building have tested positive and/or are quarantined (again, not positive) as a close contact. That classroom or building then moves temporarily to virtual instruction.
Another component in determining whether to close a school is staffing. There has been a lot of communication from parents and community members about the availability, attendance, and health of our staff. When a staff member reports an absence for general illness or a personal matter, the district takes their word. If a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 or is a close contact, they are not expected to report to work. If they have tested positive or have been exposed as a close contact, they are required to report it to their school and district.
While the district cannot control decisions of employees, students and families outside school, we encourage everyone to follow recommended guidelines for preventing COVID-19 spread, so that we can keep students in schools.
Changes to the District’s Metric
Based on the data and responses from our stakeholders, the district will amend its metric beginning January 4, 2021. The district will temporarily move a school building to virtual instruction when 5% of its student population is a positive case. Quarantine numbers will no longer be a part of the metric in determining school closures.
A school can be moved to virtual instruction prior to reaching the 5% threshold, if for example the school sees a significant increase in positive cases within a short time. It should also be stressed that when a school has been moved to virtual instruction, the school will be closed. There will be no extracurricular activities, events, athletics, practices, games, and so on, until in-person learning resumes in order to best assist in mitigation efforts.
Returning from Winter BreakStudents, families, and staff are still expected to report positive cases to the district over the winter break. The district will monitor cases to determine if a temporary change to in-person instruction is warranted. We will communicate any such changes as soon as possible for planning purposes.