Orange School District sees increase in COVID-19 cases; families must be kept up to date
Orange School District sees increase in COVID-19 cases;  families must be kept up to date

Orange School District sees increase in COVID-19 cases; families must be kept up to date

PEPPER PIKE, Ohio – COVID-19 has once again raised its ugly head in the Orange City School District.

As a result of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, the district is increasing its communication to families on this topic, Superintendent Lynn Campbell told the Orange Board of Education on Monday (May 9).

Campbell had not even given the board a COVID-19 update for more than two months as there were so few cases in the district.

On February 28, Orange Schools dropped the requirement for face masks for students and staff in kindergarten through 12th grade, and this change in protocol made it optional to wear face masks on the district campus.

But the district’s COVID-19 dashboard – updated Tuesday (May 10) – shows 56 active student cases and 12 active staff cases. Twenty-five of these student cases were at Orange High School, while 22 were at Moreland Hills Elementary School and nine at Brady Middle School.

“As I have said all along, we are a representation of our community,” Campbell said. “Our community numbers, when we look at the zip codes (which the district deducts from) and (Cuyahoga) County, are roughly where we were the first week of February in the number of new cases per week.

“So with this increase in cases, we are increasing our communication to families. We are reintroducing our daily building permit and saying that there are so many cases in (every) building.

“For (pre-kindergarten) to fifth grade, where children spend a large portion of their time with the same group, we make letters at the classroom level again.”

Campbell noted that the expectation for school districts to do contract tracking for COVID-19 was dropped in March by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

“There’s not even a process in place to share anything with the county anymore,” he said. “They have shut down that system.

“But we wanted to keep our (COVID-19) dashboard updated so you can continuously see what our number of cases is in each building, and you can also see our cumulative cases.”

Campbell said the district is now working with the county health council “to make sure we do what they need us to do.”

“Their CDI (Communicable Disease Investigator) will contact us and work with us,” he said.

“We’re in a mask-free environment right now, so the best we can give our parents is information so families can make an informed decision (about whether students should wear masks to school).”

Campbell said Cuyahoga County is still designated as low in COVID-19 transmission levels according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“Their latest guide is pretty helpful,” he said. “It says that when you have a low transmission in the local community, you need to stay up to date on your vaccines and be tested.

“If we reach a medium level, if you are at high risk for serious illness, you should talk to your healthcare provider, whether you should wear a mask or take other precautions.”

In addition, the district will “continue to raise our teachers’ expectations,” Campbell said. That includes enduring some group work and returning to more structured seating and as much distance as possible between students in the classrooms, he said.

“In many classrooms, it’s three feet,” he said. In a handful of high school classrooms and elementary classrooms, it’s six feet.

“So we want to do what we can at a distance and get through the last few weeks of school and all these wonderful events personally (planned) for our kids.”

Board member Angela Arnold asked if it might be a good idea at this time to inform families that it is recommended to wear face masks instead of just optional.

“The CDC does it for us,” Campbell said. “I would say let’s not wait until we reach a medium transmission level.

“So if you’re at the fence at all and you have concerns, the CDC will say you should wear a mask, in any case. If you have known exposure (for COVID-19), you should wear a mask. So it will we remind people.

“These are things we all knew, but we’ve been a little spoiled. It got really low – zero (number of cases) for weeks on end.”

Campbell said he has seen several people in the district wear face masks recently.

“I think we will see more masks because our society is educated,” he said.

Campbell said the district recently received 184 new COVID-19 test kits from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, “so we have a pretty good inventory to end the year strong with testing.”

“I think we’re so close to the finish line,” said board chairman Scott Bilsky. “At the beginning of the year, we all defined success as getting all students and staff personally through the year.

“So I hope we do not have to reconsider that protocol. My conviction is all we can do to get everyone through safely and successfully, let’s not leave any stone unturned here and get everyone through these milestones. (end of year).

Concerns about study trip

Arnold also had questions about the district’s upcoming eighth-grade teaching trip to Washington, DC. Her daughter is among the students scheduled to take the trip.

“Given our current situation and we’re so close to Washington, DC, I think about what we would do if a child tested positive (for COVID-19) on the trip,” she said. “Should I drop everything and drive to Washington to pick up my child?”

Brian Frank, principal of Brady Middle School, replied, “That’s what we’re asking you to do.”

The eighth graders leave on the trip on May 31st and return on June 2nd.

Arnold also asked if a “COVID chaperone” could be made available if any students test positive during the trip and need to go home.

“I’m just thinking about what we can do now to figure out transportation, just to plan for this to happen,” she said.

Frank said that if it is close to the time the buses drive home, a chaperone would stay back and rent a car to drive home with the affected student or students.

“That’s what’s going to happen,” he said. “We do not want to leave the child alone.”

Board Vice President Jeffrey Leikin suggested reserving an extra room at the hotel, if available, “in case you need to isolate someone or some people until they are picked up.”

Campbell agreed that it was a good idea. He noted that the district had an isolation room designated in each building for that purpose.

“Maybe we could look at making that investment,” he said.

Arnold said it might also be a good idea to add more companions to the trip, just in case they need to.

“Just assume that there will be children who tested negative (for COVID-19) before they got on the bus, and then a day later, they are positive,” she said.

Travel to Denmark approved

In addition, the board approved a proposal for a Pedagogical International Immersion trip to Denmark 20-29. April 2023 for Orange High School students.

The trip will take place at no cost to the district. Price per. students are $ 1,800 to $ 2,500, and students or parents pay their own way.

Orange Gymnasium students, who will host a Danish student in October, participate as part of the exchange program. It has not yet been determined how many students will attend.

According to the proposal, it is the eighth year in the collaboration between Orange Schools and Herning Gymnasium, a secondary school in Herning. But it will be the first time that Orange students travel to Denmark since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Herning, the BHS students must be accommodated with the families of Danish students. They must also spend time in Copenhagen.

The aim of the trip, the proposal states, is to increase students’ global awareness and overall competencies and develop leadership and independent learning competencies.

OHS International co-advisors William Brochak and Joanna McNally will be responsible for the students.

Withdrawal accepted

The board also accepted Heather Moll, intervention specialist at Brady Middle School, resigned on August 17th.

The next meeting of the Board of Directors will be at 6pm on May 23rd in the Orange High School Auditorium.

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