Marshall Schools Community,
First let me thank you for your continued trust and your cooperation during this very different and difficult school year. As CoVid numbers rise, I wanted to check-in with regards to where things stand at Marshall Schools, and touch base on the ever present potential of needing to move to Remote Learning. We remain committed to providing both an In-Person and Remote Learning options as long as this can be done safely, as long as we have enough staff to do so, and as long as we are allowed to do so.
Current Positives in School & Steps to Stay Open Safely
Among our student and staff population, we have not seen the virus transmitted in the school environment. It is possible that it has and could, but we have not seen that to this point. We have had students and staff test positive as anticipated. Until recently, those positives have been few. In the past two weeks, we have seen an increase in positives among staff and students. We have had 7 students test positive at the high school during that time. We currently have 4 positives between support staff and teachers district wide. While this number is still few, it is increasing. At this point in time, we feel that with the extra precautions we have in place that we can continue to be open safely. If numbers continue to rise, or we begin to see spread within the schools, this could be a cause to move temporarily to Remote Learning. The Remote Learning option is still available also to any student who feels or whose parent feels that that is the best option.
With the heightened number of positive cases, we ask that you continue to do the daily self-certification health check with your student(s), and now more than ever err on the side of caution if your student is showing any symptoms. Please keep them home in this case, consult with your physician, get them tested if advised to, and communicate with us about a return to school once symptom free. Because of the nature of CoVid, if a student is symptomatic, it is best to keep siblings at home as well, until CoVid is ruled out. If a student is advised to get tested, siblings must be out until CoVid is ruled out.
To help with this situation, Marshall Schools has recently been approved as a CoVid testing site for our symptomatic students and staff using BiNax Now Antigen tests as part of a pilot Illinois program. BiNax Now is a “fast” test that only requires a nasal swab, and 15 minutes to get a result, and can be administered by our health staff. This would be completely optional to parents and staff, would be free, and would only be used when a student or staff member is symptomatic at school or has symptoms when completing the self-certification health check. In having access to these tests on site, we will be able to speed up the process of ruling out CoVid and getting staff and students back to the classroom quicker. More information on this program will be shared on Friday.
Contact Tracing & Available Staff Numbers
With each positive case, we work closely with the Clark County Health Department, students, and staff on identifying close contacts through contact tracing (less than 6 feet apart for 15 minutes). We also do our best to communicate with parents when a student has to quarantine due to close contact. Our students and staff have done a wonderful job in doing their part with regards to masks, social distancing, washing hands, cleaning, etc. This has allowed contact tracing within our walls to be as minimal as possible. This does not mean that close contact doesn’t or won’t happen or that it is not impactful to each student or staff that has to quarantine. Each one of these calls is difficult to make, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and cooperation. Despite our best efforts, we do have some classrooms that do not allow for seating at social distance, we have busses where even with 1 to a seat students are not six feet apart, and other situations where close contact is unavoidable.
Our students and staff each have lives outside of our school walls as well, so we have had both staff and students experience close contact outside our walls that has resulted in having to quarantine. As CoVid cases rise outside of our walls, the need for staff and students to quarantine has increased as well. We do our best in each case to provide Remote Learning for the student and to fill the void as best as possible with regards to staff. Our staff and our substitute staff have gone above and beyond in keeping us going. As you have seen in surrounding districts, there is always a chance that the number of staff available can cause a building or district to move temporarily to Remote Learning.
Governor Pritzker, Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois State Board of Education
To this point in the year, Illinois Schools have been able to make local decisions regarding In-Person Learning as long as the guidelines set forth by the Governor, IDPH, and ISBE are followed. We are hopeful that this continues to be the case, as we feel that we know our situation better than anyone else, and are best equipped to make those decisions. If need be, as you have read above, we will make that tough decision. However, as we saw last spring, it is possible that this decision could be taken out of our hands. We know of no plan for schools to be ordered to go to 100% Remote Learning at this time, but with increased restrictions being implemented throughout the state, this becomes more and more of a possibility. As we saw in the spring, this can come with little warning.
As this fluid situation continues, I will continue to keep you updated as well as possible via email, app notifications, and the website. Also, you can tune into Joey O and I on WMMC, each Thursday, 8:30 a.m. for a weekly update discussion.
I share these updates not to alarm you but to share the current situation and allow you to be prepared if our ability to provide In-Person School should change. I thank you, your students, and our staff for your efforts to this point, and thank you again for your continued trust and cooperation.
Superintendent, Marshall Schools