SCCPSS school leaders give COVID-19 update at first board meeting of new year

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 6:04 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 5:36 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham County Public School System students have been back in the classroom for a whole week as of Wednesday.

But we know in the first three days, 3 percent of the students are quarantined because of COVID-19 while less than 1 percent have tested positive for the virus.

The district had their first board meeting of the new school year on Wednesday. Obviously, there was a lot of information on COVID protocol and mitigation. In fact, before the board’s meeting early Wednesday morning, a handful of people stood out here to protest their mask requirement. WTOC did ask all of those people if they wanted to speak about their stand and they declined the chance.

As for the district, they say masking has helped keep their student in school and ensures they can stay on this path.

They say they are continuing to follow CDC guidance and are keeping their strict mitigation practices for safety of all. One concern as cases begin to happen within the district is among staff.

Leaders say they are looking into but could have situations with staff shortages and students have to flip virtual while the staff recovers.

One of those feeling the impacts of the quarantine is District 6 board member David Bringman. He joined the meeting via phone because COVID hit close to his home but says they learned quickly thanks to their action planning.

“My child was an asymptomatic positive on Wednesday after we were contacted by a family that we had close contact with. The district acted swiftly, and I spent the evening doing contact tracing within an hour we were contacted by the school and told to pick up a packet and Chromebook so that he and his class who were having to quarantine would be able to continue to learn. And I just want to reiterate that this is probably the new normal, but the district is working tirelessly to make sure that we continue to educate our students as they may go in and out of quarantine,” Bringman said.

While they discussed COVID impacts, they did give an update on the transportation shortage.

Leaders say they were able to route an additional 3,500 students since the start of the year and they will continue to look for efficiencies. They also say they added a phone line for concerns to help parents.

While we have seen the number of COVID cases from the first three days, leaders say they will be watching what happens next.

They did say several have reached out about wanting to go to a virtual learning environment and the E-learning academy sits close to its capacity level.

District parents speak out against masking requirement, address transportation issues

The district says 230 students and 36 staff members have tested positive for the virus. Over 1,000 students and more than 70 staff members are in quarantine.

“Some of our students are coming to school sick and that being the first three days of school, it was very important to us to put messaging out on Friday to our families just to remind them how important it is to self-monitor.”

SCCPSS Superintendent Dr. Levett says the district has had a 99.9% compliance rate with masking.

“As you know we were planning for the year, we started off being mask optional because that was what the CDC required, and then as things started to change we made those changes with our families,” said Dr. Levett.

However, some parents spoke out against the masking requirement.

“As a mother and a grandmother. I implore you in good conscience to make masks optional, ‘hashtag our children, our choice,” said one parent.

“It is my belief or my hope that you will understand why I call the mask mandate or any mandate related to this virus, a complete absurdity,” said another parent.

The district is working with staff and principals to increase virtual learning options, but permanent options like The E-Learning Academy only has about 200 spaces left.

“We are asking that if students enroll online in the E-Learning Academy that they are doing that because they are choosing a virtual option for this school year,” said Superintendent of Secondary Schools Bernadette Ball-Oliver.

Transportation is one issue several board members claim parents expressed concern about.

Godley Station K-8 grandparent Vicky Segura has two grandkids who will eventually go to New Hampstead K-8.

“I’m sitting here for two hours waiting until 3:15 p.m. and then at 3:20 p.m. or 3:25 p.m., the line starts moving,” said Segura. “All these kids that are going to that school, some are from New Hampstead some are going to Godley Station so why wouldn’t they have two different places to pick up your kids?”

The district says they are working with the staff at the school to address the long lines at pick up and drop off.

District gives update on ESPLOST projects

The board received an update from Maintenance and Operations staff on the status of ESPLOST III projects.

White Bluff Elementary School construction was completed July 31. The district will receive about $1.25 million in unallocated funds from the project.

The Islands High School Athletic Complex was completed on April 18, 2020. It seats 2,000 people and was over budget by over $21,600. District staff say those funds are covered now.

Construction for Jenkins High School was completed on November 19. The district expects to get about $1.33 million in unallocated funds from the project.

The district is hoping to have construction at New Hampstead K-8 completed by October 18. The district expects almost $280,000 in unallocated funds following its completion.

District leaders are looking to finish construction on the K-12 Multi-School Campus in June 2023. They need about $10 million in additional funding to complete it.

The district says they will be using unallocated funds from other projects for additional funding.

The Beach High School Auditorium construction was completed on May 11. The district says a return of more than $152,000 in unallocated funds will come from the project.

The gym and auditorium at Woodville Tompkins is currently under construction. The district expects a return of more than $464,000 in unallocated funds.

Construction on Savannah High’s stadium is projected to be completed on August 30, with a return of more than $106,000 in unallocated funds.

SCCPSS Protocol Regarding Quarantine for Identified Close Contacts

All close contacts are instructed to take the following steps during the quarantine period:

1. Quarantine. Your child should quarantine at home except in case of emergency or to be tested for COVID-19. He/she should not attend school, extracurricular activities, or public activities during this time. Note: Your child may be tested for COVID-19 on day five of quarantine. Students who supply documentation of a negative COVID-19 test taken on or after day 5 will be allowed back to school following seven days unless they become symptomatic. Students who are not tested will need to complete a full ten days of quarantine.

2. Check for temperature and symptoms. Twice a day check your child’s temperature and assess him/her for the below COVID-19 symptoms using the following checklist:

  • Fever or chills, Headache, Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or Cough
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue, Congestion, or runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting

3. Get tested. CDC and DPH recommend your child get tested for COVID-19 at least once during their quarantine period. If your child has no symptoms, the test may take place on the 5th day of quarantine. If your child develops symptoms, the test should be obtained earlier.

4. Alert the school. Alert the school IMMEDIATELY if your child develops COVID-19 symptoms. Depending on when your child developed symptoms and his/her last day in school, additional contact tracing may need to be done by the school.

5. Though the district only requires a ten day quarantine, parents also have the option of doing a full 14 day quarantine.

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