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SLSD Health Update

Posted on: January 10, 2022

Greetings, SLSD Parents / Guardians;

Last week’s COVID cases in our schools, stemming from Christmas break, spiked far above any of the trends we have seen throughout this pandemic. Please click HERE to view the weekly data graphic for the period January 3-9, 2022.  For perspective, we had 15 positive staff members out first semester, total over 18 weeks. We had 21 staff positive on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, our first day back from winter break.  Our student positives, district-wide on December 16, 2021, the day we left for break were at 24.  Our first day back from break (January 4, 2022) we had 66 positive cases district-wide and that number continued to climb throughout the week, peaking at 107 positive student cases on Friday.  These numbers closely align with the large jumps we are seeing in positive cases throughout the zip codes and areas that feed into our schools, as well as in Hamilton County / Ohio in general.  As of early this morning (Monday, January 10), we had 32 students out positive, which is higher than the Friday before break, but not nearly what we were dealing with last week.  Mondays tend to be our largest reporting day of the week for schools and positive cases.  We anticipate our numbers to hold fairly steady this week and then to slowly drop back to where we were during first semester, towards the end of this month.

We have had a few staff members that required more than the new 5 day isolation period to get well. The same has been true for a handful of students. Those vaccinated are, for the most part, faring better than those that are not - which parallels local, state and national figures. The CDC released updated isolation and quarantine guidance towards the end of our holiday break and the Ohio Department of Health and then the Hamilton County Department of Health have since approved these new guidelines. As we have done from the onset of this pandemic, we follow the Hamilton County Department of Health’s guidance and leadership. The revised guidance can be found HERE.  The new "mask to stay / test to play" guidelines can be found HERE.

To say that last week was overwhelming for our school nurses, admin team, teachers and classified staff would be an understatement. We fully understand that our jobs are not nearly as hectic right now as those working in the hospitals locally – of which many of our parents do, and we are forever grateful for their work. Staff shortages are real. At one point, we had 3 of 6 cooks out ill in one of our schools' kitchens. We had administrators jumping in to assist with providing food for students, so that we could keep school going. There are countless instances of staff covering for others that are out ill themselves, or caring for kids due to a spouse being positive. It’s fair to say – that Omicron and our holiday break created a perfect storm for spread. There are numerous school districts in our area that are having to shift to remote learning or cut bus routes due to staffing shortages. We truly hope to avoid this.

When we determine that spread is occurring within our schools, we will require universal masking by class, grade, school and then district. Please utilize the 3-ply paper surgical masks when masking your child up at school. Close contacts are required to mask up after exposure to a positive case, as spoken to in the aforementioned Ohio / Hamilton County Department of Health guidelines.  Due to the high number of positive cases and close contacts (both school-related and stemming from households), most of our staff and a large number of students are masked up currently, which is one aspect of mitigation that is used in schools and hospitals. Cloth masks are, for the most part, ineffective when working to deter the spread of the Omicron variant. We have seen some cloth masks that don’t have multiple layers or a filter, where one can blow a candle out while wearing the mask. The 3-ply paper masks have been much more effective. Each school has several boxes of these masks available to both staff and students.

We will continue to strive to keep our students learning face to face, but we are asking that our parents continue to work with us and keep their child home if they exhibit any symptoms of illness. We have rapid tests in each school – and we would rather parents or school nurses (with parent permission) test students to know for sure – whether they are positive or not. We cannot afford to have sick students or staff at school. We also understand that there is a lot of confusion out there with the new guidelines for isolation and quarantine. Please stay flexible as we work to keep kids in school, learning face to face, and work through the new guidelines. Our teachers are working diligently with the students that are here in class, as well as tending to those that are out ill and learning remotely. This is challenging as well – living in both the face to face and remote worlds of instruction. Best case – we are all here in school, together.

Thank you again for your flexibility and understanding as we work through these next few weeks. Omicron is supposed to peak here in Ohio this month. Brighter days are on the horizon! Stay together. Stay strong. Stay healthy! Go Cats!

John C. Hamstra
Southwest Local Schools