BY SARAH STEPHENS
Due to the increased number of personnel quarantined and self-isolated at Coosada Elementary and Holtville Elementary Schools, both schools will transition to virtual platforms for the remainder of this week for all students.
“We will evaluate the health status of each school after Friday and determine if they will return on Tuesday, Jan. 19,” Richard Dennis, Elmore County School Superintendent, said.
Parents/guardians of students at Coosada Elementary and Holtville Elementary Schools will be notified of a specific return date as soon as possible.
Aside from COVID, Dennis said that a smaller number of flu cases are also being reported, but much less than in previous years.
“I think a lot of disinfecting due to COVID has really helped the process and kept (the flu) down. So that is positive. The flu can really take out kids out of school. Last year at this time one school had 130 students out with flu. If we can use these measures to reduce that, we will continue to do so in the future,” Dennis said.
Among the arsenal to battle against COVID are Electrostatic sprayers on every bus, and multiple units in each school. Backpack units handle larger areas for spraying, he said.
“This has been emotionally overwhelming,” Dennis said.
COVID has had a big impact on everyone involved with the school system, as everything that was known has been changed. He fears it could impact some teachers who are close to retirement.
“I am afraid this will take out some teachers that might have made it a few more years. But this is an ongoing process,” he said.
Dennis said his office is working with the Elmore County Health Department in the event the vaccine for COVID becomes available. Taking the vaccine will not be a mandate, he said, but his staff wants to reach out to those at most risk and make it available.
“We have been monitoring the situation from day one, and we look at numbers every day, as a matter of fact,” Dennis said. “Last week two schools were sticking out a little bit. After reviewing this morning we made this decision. We have people that are out to COVID, out for self-isolated quarantine, others out because they are sick (other than COVID) or have had deaths in family. Quite frankly, several of our people have lost family members. So we have people out for a number of reasons and it has all escalated.”
Currently, Dennis said Coosada Elementary has 5 positive cases, and six that are self-isolating. Holtville Elementary has three positive cases but nine self-isolated, and more than that out because of general illness.
Other numbers as far as COVID are not significantly high right now as far as individual schools.
“We will continue to monitor this on a case-by-case basis. Things could change tomorrow. Right now we are at a point we can manage the other schools,” Dennis said.
As for students who receive school breakfast or lunch at school, food will be distributed with students when they go home. “We try to have six days of food for them in advance,” Dennis said. “We are also working with other groups, such as the YMCA and their programs as well.”
Dennis said he apologizes for the inconvenience due to schools closing, but with the numbers being presented, it is necessary. He is thankful for the support the community, parents, students and staff have offered.