COVID-19 November 2020 Update

COVID-19 November 2020 Update
Posted on 11/13/2020
COVID-19 Update

Dear Brentwood Community,

This month, we successfully welcomed back our last group of traditional program students to in-person learning. While it comes at a time when numbers in the county are concerning, I am incredibly pleased with the work of our staff, students, and families to prioritize our schools and keep our buildings safe and healthy. 

I wish to use this opportunity to share information regarding our COVID-19 response efforts as well as current challenges and concerns. As I’ve stated regularly, our goal is to have our buildings open whenever it is safe to do so. This will only be possible when we work together as a community to practice all of our health and safety protocols both in and out of school.

With growing concern over COVID numbers as we head into winter, I want to address some important questions regarding our response and decision-making process.

What information do you use to determine when schools should be open or closed?

We are closely following a number of metrics related to COVID-19. In particular, we are watching the transmission rate and 7-day average of cases in our community. However, it’s important to note that this data only tells part of the story. 

Per the Centers for Disease Control, local mitigation efforts play a key role in whether or not schools can remain open. To that end, we have developed two key metrics that will be used to determine if schools or the district should close.

1) Percentage of students/staff with a positive test reaches 5%.


If the total number of students and staff with a positive COVID result within a building or across the district reaches 5%, that building or the district will close.


For context, as of writing this letter, we have one positive student across the entire district at Brentwood Middle School. This accounts for only 0.67% of that school’s population.
As of now, there have been only 7 confirmed positive student or staff cases across the district since September. Even if all of these cases had taken place at the same time, it would account for only 0.85% of the population.

2) Percentage of students/staff in quarantine reaches 25%.


If the total number of students and staff in quarantine because they are positive or close contacts to a positive case reaches 25% in a building or across the district, that building or the district will close.
So far, the most number of students and staff we’ve had in quarantine at one time was about 30 for the entire district. That accounts for only 3.5% of the district’s population. 

Of course, should other metrics indicate that closing school is necessary, we will not hesitate to err on the side of safety. Additionally, staffing concerns due to rising cases in the community or other unforeseen circumstances could lead to closures. Any decision we make about closing a school or the district will be made in partnership with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. 

Is closing school an effective strategy in mitigating COVID cases?

The role of schools is to educate students. While schools are an integral part of any community, they are only a piece in being able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The burden of stopping the spread of the virus rests on all of us collectively. 

Research shows that short-medium school closures don’t impact the curve of spread of COVID-19 within a community. In fact, current studies are beginning to indicate that schools may actually be a safer place for students because it is a more carefully controlled environment with numerous mitigation measures in place like masks, hand-washing, cleaning procedures, and social distancing. 

Longer school closures may actually result in students congregating outside of school where there are fewer mitigation measures in place. This also impacts students who rely on key services who are put at greater risk when schools are closed. According to the CDC, “when mitigation strategies are consistently and correctly used, the risk of spread within the school environment and the surrounding community is decreased.” 

Regardless, we know that schools alone cannot stop the spread of COVID-19. Making good decisions and following the health and safety guidelines and protocols both at school and at home will help stop the spread and keep students in school. In addition to masks and social distancing, this means eliminating unnecessary gatherings and being vigilant about symptoms.

What we know so far is that our mitigation efforts seem to be working. Our students and staff are doing their part while at school. We know that wearing masks combined with physical distancing where possible and frequent hand-washing are critical to reducing the spread. In addition, being vigilant about symptoms and staying home when you are sick is helping prevent possible outbreaks. Working in conjunction with the Department of Public Health to identify close contacts is also pivotal in keeping our schools healthy. 

If community transmission is high, but school and community mitigation strategies are implemented and strictly followed then the risk of transmission in a school decreases. While we will continue to evaluate our own procedures and make adjustments when necessary, there are factors outside of our control. Once again, we urge our community to follow the CDC and St. Louis County DPH guidelines at home or at work to keep our community, including our schools, open and safe.

What can I do to help?

With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, we must be more vigilant than ever to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. While it will be tempting to gather with friends and family or to travel over the coming weeks, please make safe and healthy decisions when it comes to celebrating. 

Here are some suggested guidelines to follow at home or work that will have a big impact on our ability to keep schools open.

Wear your mask. Be sure to select masks that are at least two layers thick and that snugly cover your mouth and nose. Be sure to regularly wash your masks.
Limit social gatherings. Protect yourself and others by limiting unnecessary contact or gatherings. If you must gather, be sure to follow social distancing, hand-washing, and mask guidelines. 
Wash your hands. Regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. When hand-washing is not available, use hand sanitizer. Make sure your hands are clean before putting on or removing your mask and before/after meals.
Socially distance yourself from others by six feet. When physically distancing is not possible, use plexiglass or other barriers and limit the amount of time you are within six feet of others.
Watch your symptoms. Check in with yourself and with your children about how they’re feeling. If you are sick, stay home from work and school. Be sure to complete the Health Screening Form for your students each day before school.

These have been difficult times for all of us. Balancing health and safety while continuing to provide a high-quality education to our students has always been our goal. We are committed to doing what it takes to keep our schools open, but we cannot do it alone. Only together, as partners in education and as neighbors, can we keep our schools open and healthy. 

Thank you for your continued support and understanding.

Your partner in education,

Brian Lane


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