‘Changing conditions’: Nevada County schools adapt to challenges due to COVID-19 surge
Local schools are adjusting to challenges resulting from Nevada County’s current surge in COVID-19 cases.
Nevada County’s Director of Public Health, Jill Blake, and its Deputy Public Health Officer, Dr. Glennah Trochet, on Tuesday sent a memo to the county’s schools regarding adjustments to testing, isolation, and quarantine during the COVID-19 case surge due to the Omicron variant.
The memo stated the current surge in Nevada County is “unprecedented,” adding that the Omicron variant is “highly infectious but may cause less severe disease,” and that it is unknown whether long-term symptoms or disability would come from this variant, as they have from previous variants of the virus.
In response to new guidance from the state Department of Public Health, according to the memo, certain authorizations have been made to schools until Feb. 28, or sooner, “if the current surge recedes to manageable levels, staff attendance improves,and testing supplies become more available.”
Among these are that the schools issue “blanket exposure notifications,” notifying all students participating in in-person instruction that they have likely been exposed, placing them all into a “quarantine” during which they may remain on campus as long as they wear a mask, and are recommended regardless of vaccination status to get tested.
Any student “on quarantine” who develops COVID-19 symptoms “must be excluded from campus and tested,” the memo states, and those who test negative may return after 24 hours without fever if symptoms are improving. Untested symptomatic students must be excluded from campus for 10 days, according to the memo.
Other adjustments were that students in “quarantine” participating in “unmasked sports or band” are required to test at least twice weekly, regardless of vaccination status, home testing with an FDA approved over-the-counter test may be accepted by schools if their policies allow it, and special arrangements should be made for “medically fragile students who are attending classes in person.”
Nevada Joint Union High School District Assistant Superintendent Dan Frisella wrote in a letter Wednesday that district families should “first and foremost” not send their students to school if they have COVID-19 symptoms, and that their students would be sent home if they did.
The letter thanked families for their understanding as the district works to “continually adapt to changing conditions.”
SHORT ON SUBS
Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay said Tuesday that this is the second year that local schools have been “short” on substitute teachers.
Lay said the county currently has approximately 150 substitutes, a lower number than would be normal, and that recruitment has been ongoing.
Due to the COVID-19 surge as the Omicron variant spreads, according to Lay, local schools have recently faced “many unfulfilled substitute teaching positions.” In some cases, he said, administrators are in the classrooms, or classes are “doubling up.”
Pleasant Ridge School District closed its campuses from Tuesday through today due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and shortage of substitute teachers, according to an announcement the district posted on its website Sunday.
“Since coming back from the winter break, the school district continues to experience increases in the COVID-19 cases on our campuses. This is the greatest number of positive cases within our schools since the beginning of the pandemic,” the announcement stated, adding that the district would aim to provide testing Wednesday and today, and resume school on Friday.
“If you have a degree and have a desire to sub within PRUSD, you may call the district office to inquire how to become a sub for our district,” the district stated. “This will help in keeping our schools open when we see increases like we are experiencing.”
Lay said Tuesday that other districts in the county had sent similar requests to their respective communities, leading to an increase in people contacting his office in order to be added to the system as substitute teachers.
He explained, however, that this is a process which can take approximately two weeks, since it involves steps such as getting an individual’s transcripts from the college they attended as well as processing their fingerprints.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order which aimed to lower state barriers delaying the hire of short-term substitute teachers, although according to Lay, this “hasn’t had a great deal of impact.”
The executive order has proven helpful thus far in certain respects, such as giving certain permissions to student teachers and retired teachers, he explained, but “when push comes to shove, a lot of the barriers still exist.” Some of these barriers, such as the required background check, are “with good reason,” said Lay, although he stated that he had thought others would have been waived given the emergency.
“Schools are being very creative. They’re doing their absolute best to keep doors open for students,” said Lay, adding that local schools do not want to close their campuses. “My office is here to support our districts and charter schools in keeping open, and we will continue to do that through this latest pandemic surge.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
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Nevada Joint Union High School District Assistant Superintendent Dan Frisella is getting a promotion.