Nov 24, 2020 12:01 PM

Hays USD 489 super: Students to stay on site for as long as possible

Posted Nov 24, 2020 12:01 PM
Hays school board File photo
Hays school board File photo

By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays Post

The Hays school district hopes to continue with in-person learning now and after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Superintendent Ron Wilson told the school board at its meeting Monday, the district can remain in person under its gating criteria.

The criteria says parents and staff need to be notified if the positive cases reach 1 percent or higher in a building's population. If percent positive reaches 1.5 percent or higher, the district will consider a move to remote-learning.

Wilson said Hays High School reached the 1 percent benchmark last week, but has never moved above 1.5 percent mark.

As of Monday, the district had 19 students and staff who were positive for COVID-19 out of about 3,800. However, more are in quarantine because of close contacts.

Some individual classrooms have gone remote for up to 14 calendar days because of two or more positives within that group. 

"We are really following the gating criteria, and we have determined the best place for our students to be is in school, and probably the safest," Wilson said.

He said COVID is not spreading within the schools because of the precautions students and staff are taking, such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.

Students and staff are contracting COVID from household contacts or activity in the community, Wilson said. 

Staffing shortages could also result in learning going remote. Wilson said the district was on the line in terms of adequate staffing due to COVID-19.

"We are making a commitment to keep our kids in school, on site as long as we can," Wilson said. "It comes down to those percentages and staff."

Wilson gave credit to school staff for keeping schools's doors open.

"Surprisingly we have been able to make it work somehow, someway," he said. "What that is is a lot of dedicated employees who are going above and beyond to step in and do the things that are required to keep our doors open." 

Wilson said the district continues to meet with the Ellis County task force on COVID-19, which includes health professionals.

Board member Craig Pallister asked if the district's gating criteria had anything to do with the county's seven-day positivity rate. Wilson said the district looks at those numbers, but it is not specifically considered in gating criteria. 

Board member Tammy Wellbrock asked if the district had changed its gating criteria except for the decrease in the requirement for quarantine for an individual with a close contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19 from 14 to seven days.

Wilson said that had been the only change to the criteria since the beginning of the school year.

He said the district is willing to adjust if conditions would change.

Board member Lori Hertel said she had received many questions about remote learning after the Thanksgiving holiday. Wilson said the district's intent is to keep students on site unless the numbers of positive cases within the schools change.