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Covid-19 Cases Cause School Staffing Shortage, Minimum Sessions

High School students will return to school on a minimum session schedule January 3.

Students in the district’s three largest schools will start the New Year off on minimum sessions, due to a staffing shortage caused by an uptick in positive Covid-19 cases.

The minimum sessions are expected to last until January 17, according to a message from district officials.

“While following the minimum session schedule, lunches will not be served at the middle school or high school campuses and students will be dismissed according to the advertised minimum session time which can be found on the district and schools’ websites,” the messages reads.

Minimum session hours for the high school are 7:20-11:53 a.m., and 7:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the middle school campuses.

The elementary schools are not affected by this change, according to the statement.

The decision to go to minimum session at the schools was prompted by expected absences due to Covid-19 exposure, District spokeswoman Mary Clark said.

“A minimum session better allows teachers to provide class coverage,” Clark said in an email. “On a full session day, a teacher has a scheduled lunch and/or preparation period at a specific time.  In a shorter minimum session day, it is easier to adjust the schedule to allow teachers to cover classes for their absent colleagues.”

“Also, this minimum session schedule, which will not include lunches eaten in school, will prevent larger gatherings of students who would remove their masks to eat,” she said. “It will also allow the food services department to adjust their staff to account for absences in other schools.”

Clark said that breakfasts will continue to be served, and the District is “working to provide grab and go lunches for our secondary students to take with them as they leave the building and hope to have that in place in a few days.”

Clark said the District felt it was safe to continue the breakfast program – in which students are fed in the cafeterias – because fewer students take breakfast than have lunch.

Data released by the District on December 31 show that for the month of December up to December 22 – right before schools closed for the winter break – there were 160 positive Covid-19 cases reported. Of those, 115 were students, 42 were staff members and three were vendors.

That was a steep increase from November, when just 35 total positive cases were reported: 24 students, nine staff members and two vendors.

The data show that District-wide as of December 22, there were 255 total Covid-19 cases in the district: 177 students, 72 staff members and six vendors.

The latest data show 69 total cases in the high school, 25 total cases in the Hamilton Street middle school campus and 27 total cases in the Sampson G. Smith middle school campus.

The biggest increase between December 21 and December 22 in the high school was among students, with 24 students reporting positive Covid-19 test results in that time.

“We continue to monitor the Covid-19 related data and continue to consult with local health authorities,” the message reads. “Should further action be needed we will be sure to communicate as soon as possible.”

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