More than 300 staff and students unable to attend school in person through the ClearToGo app
By Megan Kelley
On March 24, just a few days after Lake Orion High School did away with their hybrid learning model, bringing all in-person students back to school Monday through Friday, Lake Orion Community School’s Board of Education met for their regularly scheduled meeting.
Each meeting, Superintendent Ben Kirby provides an update on how the district is handling COVID-19, and while it had only been a short time having the vast majority of the high school population back in school together, with rising cases and neighboring districts having to move to remote learning, this update was highly anticipated.
“Monday is when we did go full capacity with our high school, which would mean now at K-12 we have full capacity in our buildings,” Kirby said. “Overall things have been going pretty well.”
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released information stating that three feet of social distancing in a classroom would be sufficient in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re not automatically telling everybody, ‘Go squish in, you don’t have to be six feet anymore.’ Three feet is the minimum; six feet is the ideal. If we can get to six feet, stay at six feet, we’re going to do that,” Kirby said. “Six feet still remains the quarantine minimum.”
Over the past several weeks, Oakland County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, with the four weeks leading up to the meeting showing a steady increase in positive case numbers. (See page 5 for local, county and state COVID-19 updated numbers.)
“We’ve had a couple of athletic teams, some individual athletes in individualized sports, and there’s also been some athletic groups within the community that aren’t school-sponsored so those are all piled into that number,” said Kirby. “All age groups continue to go up…This isn’t a surprise to anybody. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody when you look — the limitations have been more relaxed, people are doing more, they’re getting around, there’s a lot of in-person schooling. It’s going to happen. What we need to continue to do is just make sure that we’re putting students in safe situations, which we believe that we are.”
As of Monday, there were 75.5 cases per 10,000 people within the district boundaries. Lake Orion schools have seen a rise in cases as well.
“As of three this afternoon, we had 22 staff members that, through the ClearToGo (app), were unable to work. What that meant was we had three that were COVID-positive and then the rest of them were exposure-type cases or family incidents/issues. And then, as far as the student population we were at 296 students that were unable to attend based on the ClearToGo information we had this afternoon. Within that there were 15 positives for students, about seven of those were identified to be high school students, which, when you look at population, that probably would make sense,” Kirby said.
“The elementary classrooms; as you know, if we get a COVID-positive (student) in the classroom we end up flipping instruction, which basically everybody then is working remotely during that period of time. We currently have six of our elementary classrooms in that situation and that has gone fluidly. We’ve done it before; people have a level of comfort with that. It certainly is an inconvenience but we’re currently at six classrooms in that situation.”
At the time of the meeting, the percentage of students quarantined was just above four percent of the student population.
“The district is a microcosm of our community. What’s happening in the community is going to happen in the schools. So, if we continue to be vigilant, that will show up in schools. If we have situations where we have parties — we’ve seen that in neighboring districts, even our own students were part of that — that’s going to make an impact. Our choices do come into the school. We’ll continue to support students but that does impact our programming,” said Kirby. “If our students are sick, if our staff is sick, please please please keep our students home. If you have any thoughts that they might be sick, keep them home and we’ll figure it out.”
With spring break just around the corner, Kirby also reminded families who are traveling to take the proper precautions and follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC.
“We feel like we’re in a good situation, we certainly have had our challenges, we knew that we were going to, as everybody is when we’re in person. But staff is pulling together, families are working hard together and we’ll continue to make progress,” Kirby said.