4th-6th Grade & Middle School Blended Learning Transition Delayed
Othello School District’s board of directors took action on November 16th to delay the transition of students in grades 4-6 from online to blended learning. Students in those grades will now return on January 4, 2021, after the winter break. Middle school students will return on January 11th.
“New COVID cases in our area are growing at an explosive rate,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Hurst. “Before our K-3 students transitioned, Adams county was approaching rates in the low 100’s per 100,000 residents. Today, we are at over 1,160 new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period.”
In addition, a large number of district staff are currently quarantined due to either confirmed COVID diagnoses, pending test results, or potential exposure to a positive case. “We have almost 50 staff members who are currently quarantined. The number seems to be growing daily. Some of these staff can work remotely from home, but if the number keeps growing our ability to deliver a quality in-person learning experience will be impacted,” said Dr.Hurst.
As of November 17th, the school district’s COVID Transparency Portal reported 20 staff members with confirmed COVID cases since November 4th, and 10 students in the same time period. Three cohort groups are currently quarantined. “There are a lot of people still waiting on test results,” said Dr. Hurst. “We expect this number to grow.”
Although nationwide data shows that schools are inherently safe, the district felt it was appropriate to recommend the delay to the school board. “We believe our schools are safe. We’d like to keep them that way,” said Dr. Hurst.
Start dates for students in high school are not impacted by the board’s action. The board also declined to transition K-3 students back to online learning for the remaining days before Thanksgiving break.
“Our top priority is the safety of our students and staff. Our safety and contact tracing protocols are working. We are able to act quickly to pause blended learning for impacted cohort groups to prevent large outbreaks in our schools,” said Dr. Hurst.
Othello School District encourages all community members to consider changing any plans they have for large in-person gatherings over the Thanksgiving season. “We’re seeing outbreaks connected to social gatherings in our community. Our schools are safe, but if we’re going to keep them that way, it will take the cooperation of the entire Othello School District Community,” said Dr. Hurst. “Please, wear a mask, practice social distancing, consider holding your holiday gatherings remotely vs. in person, and be safe.”