Centreville schools go to remote learning for rest of week

CENTREVILLE — Another school district in St. Joseph County is moving to remote learning for a short period of time due to COVID cases and staffing issues.

Centreville Public Schools’ Board of Education Monday approved a measure to move the district into remote learning by a unanimous vote during their regular meeting. The remote learning period will be only for a short time, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 27 and ending on Friday, Oct. 29. Sports practices and competitions will not be affected.

Superintendent Stephanie Lemmer said the reasoning for the move is due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in both the student and staff population and the associated contact tracing of those cases. Lemmer said the district had to notify over 150 families of close contacts between Sunday night and Monday afternoon after learning of new cases in students and staff, including five new student cases and one new staff case reported Monday.

Lemmer said 110 students in the district were out due to illness at the start of Monday, and at the end of the day were up to 160 students, nearly 18 percent of the student population. Currently, 14 staff and three students have tested positive recently, with 41 students and three staff currently quarantined.

“In order to keep school open, we need to have attendance that’s at a sustainable level and we need to staff the classrooms with staff. We’re currently at a place where there are too many staff that’s ill to cover all of the classes and daily operations,” Lemmer said.

She added that while there are three positive staff cases, 11 staff members – three aides and eight teachers – are out, some for non-COVID-related reasons. That has gotten the district to a place where the district’s administration has been “completely consumed” with contact tracing. By putting remote learning through the end of the week, Lemmer said she hopes it will allow the district to “put some distance” and cut off the number of positive cases coming in.

Lemmer said she is hopeful the move to remote learning will only be for those three days, but noted there may be some staff members who may not be back until Wednesday, Nov. 3 or Thursday, Nov. 4. Outside of those staff, Lemmer said there is a timetable for staff to come back on Monday.

“My hope is that no one else gets it, and that by getting other staff members healthy, we can cover some of the absences,” Lemmer said.

Board President Jeff Troyer was a bit wary of three school days and five calendar days being enough time, based on how COVID-19 in the county has, as he put it, “blown up” recently, but Lemmer said based on when some staff came down with symptoms, they would be able to return on Monday, Nov. 1.

“This might be Pollyanna, but I feel most comfortable looking at three days. If all of a sudden it continues to get worse, [Tuesday] or Thursday, I’d be the first to notify you that it’s not looking good for being able to come back on Monday,” Lemmer said to Troyer. “Certainly, my hope is that getting some distance on the situation would help with slowing down the spread.”

Board Treasurer Rod Detwiler noted the situation has been “made worse” because of a lack of substitute teachers in the district to fill in, which Lemmer agreed with.

“We’re doing our best in that way, but they’re really not available, they’re not there,” Lemmer said.

Some concern was raised by a couple of board members about taking attendance in virtual learning, as 75 percent of a district needs to be in attendance to count as a school day so the district doesn’t need to add days at the end of the year. Lemmer said students would get a walkthrough on how to log in to the virtual learning, and attendance will be taken similar to how attendance is taken in a face-to-face setting, with a schedule on when attendance is taken at the elementary level and junior/senior high attendance being taken at the beginning of each class period.

“It’s the best of a whole lot of not very good options, so I think in that respect, I think that’s the best option we have,” Detwiler said. “I hope for good attendance.”

As of Monday, Centreville has had a cumulative total of 44 COVID-19 cases reported, one shy of their total of 45 from the entirety of the 2020-21 school year.

In other business…

  • The board approved revised COVID-19 administrative guidelines for the district. The guidelines now states that for a close contact who have a household member that’s positive, if the close contact is vaccinated they will not be quarantined, but are asked to monitor symptoms; and if a close contact is within three feet of a positive case for more than 15 minutes and are not showing symptoms and choose not to quarantine will be screened daily at school for 10 days and required to wear a mask during school activities. However, students contact traced between three and six feet of a positive case would not be required to wear a mask in the 10-day timeframe.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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