RAYMOND – The number of students testing positive for COVID-19 or quarantined because of exposure to the virus is climbing at Raymond Central Public Schools, according to school officials.
“We have increased significantly,” Superintendent Dr. Derrick Joel told the Board of Education during its meeting on Nov. 11.
Joel said there were 25 students who had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Nov. 9, compared to just four a week earlier. There were 78 students being quarantined for testing positive or possible exposure at the time of the meeting.
However, the source of the infection lies outside of the school grounds. Joel said contract tracing confirmed that of the last 18 to 19 student cases, all but three were confirmed to have come from outside of school, and they are still working to trace the source of the infection for the other three.
Joel told the board that the local health departments are stressing wearing face masks in school, using extensive sanitation methods and social distancing.
“Their message is our families, our community members, need to outside of school begin to adopt those mitigating measures,” he added.
Joel said parents should not allow gatherings like sleepovers or let their kids ride in cars with their friends to help control the spread. By doing so, they can keep kids in school, which is the safest place for them to be, he added.
Joel said the administration is wrestling with determining when school would need to close because of the pandemic.
“It’s a bit of a moving target and it’s case by case,” he added.
However, if the spread of the virus is uncontrollable and traced to the school, the health department would recommend the school close for at least 14 days, according to Joel.
Students who have tested positive or are quarantined because of potential exposure are offered remote learning, another strain on the faculty and students.
“We are getting to the point now we have just under 80 kids remote learning,” Joel said.
There are 29 students in K-12 who have been registered as remote learners for the semester because their parents or guardians do not want them to be in school. The district is revamping its staff to utilize paraprofessionals to help with remote learning, Joel said.
“We just want to make it so that our students have the opportunity to learn and if it takes putting additional paraprofessionals on that, we’re going to do whatever it takes to ensure that,” he added.
Still, remote learning has its drawbacks. Attendance “hasn’t been fantastic,” Joel said, as there is often no parent at home to make sure the students attend classes online.
The drawback with remote learning is that it could lead to achievement gaps, something the district wants to avoid.
“We feel remote learning has its purpose, but it might not serve all students that are currently registered as remote learners,” Joel said.
The current COVID-19 situation has also altered the winter sports schedule. Joel said immediate family only is allowed at extracurricular activities, as the updated Directed Health Measures from the state limit indoor capacity to 25%.
The board approved a change to the school calendar to add two teacher work days on Nov. 30 and Jan. 5. They also plan to add two more days to the second semester, Joel said.
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