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Episode 69: Understanding New COVID-19 Guidelines & Quarantine Procedures Impacting Our Schools

As we head into the new year 2021, Jordan School District is following some new State COVID-19 guidelines, quarantine procedures and plans for students who want to participate in athletics and other extra-curricular activities. On this episode of the Supercast, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey helps students, teachers, staff and parents understand the changes in COVID protocol that will impact our schools moving forward.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast and to a brand new year, 2021. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. As we begin the new year, Jordan School District is following some new state COVID-19 guidelines, quarantine procedures, and plans for students who wish to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities. On this episode, I'm joined by several colleagues involved in our ongoing COVID safety plans together. We hope to help students, teachers, staff, and parents better understand the changes in COVID-19 protocol that will impact our schools moving forward. All right, we are here with Caleb Olsen, our Planning and Enrollment Consultant, Brad Sorenson, the Administrator of Schools over High Schools, and Mike Anderson, our Associate Superintendent to talk about moving forward and where we stand with the pandemic in a new calendar year. It's amazing that we're in 2021. And there's just been a little bit of a mind shift as we look toward the remainder of the year.

There've been some changes in procedure at the District level and at the State level, since we last talked about this on the Supercast. So I invited these gentlemen back to talk about some of the changes and how they're impacting students, families, and employees. Caleb, let's start with you and talk about the Dashboard.  First off, the Dashboard has been very popular. We have a lot of visits to the Dashboard, that updates case counts and quarantine counts. Tell us about that.

Caleb:
Absolutely. We've had the Dashboard up since about the end of September. And right now we're seeing between 1,002 thousand views a day of patrons and community members coming to get information on their schools altogether. The Moving Forward site with the Dashboard and all of the Districts COVID-19 information has been viewed just under 370,000 times since it went live in August, that's a higher level of engagement.

Superintendent:
And I really appreciate all the work that goes into providing and updating information on that site. There have been some changes to the way we report that. And one of the big changes that we've had questions about is the reset after we've been out for two weeks for the holiday break. Can you tell us about the reset and some of the ways that the information on the Dashboard has evolved?

Caleb:
Absolutely. The reset happened because of our return from winter recess. And I think everyone in the District needed that winter recess and that time off to kind of recover and recharge. But what that winter recess meant is there were no classes being held. So there were no opportunities for students to interact with those who might've had positive cases. There were no situations where we needed to quarantine new students.

Because of, and at the direction of the Salt Lake County Health Department, when we came back from winter recess, we reset all of our quarantine and our case totals to zero because any of the existing quarantines would have ended and any of the existing positive cases would have run through their course. It would have been more than 14 days and they would have been able to be back in school or back to work. So when we returned, we reset all of those numbers to zero. That meant the Dashboard had a few changes in the way it looks, and it may be a little different to people. But the main information is still there prior to winter recess, because we had schools who were going to virtual learning for a two week or a 14-day period. There were two sets of numbers on the Dashboard, one for current cases and one for the last two weeks.

When a high school or a middle school came back from virtual learning, they may or may have had cases that have been active in the last two weeks. But just like with winter break and our districtwide reset, there were no active cases at that moment because they would have run their course. So we showed on the Dashboard those two different sets of information so that patrons and schools could see what was happening right now, and  also a little bit of the history of what was happening since we've reset as a district. That last two week section has gone off of the Dashboard because it doesn't need it. Everyone's at the same starting level. Everyone went to zero on Monday and we've had a few cases and a few quarantines come back since then. So it's a little more simple, a little more clear to see the information about your school, but the same information is there and the same information is available. And as you said, hat reset comes countywide at all of our schools in any district in the County, because that comes from the County Health Department who reset protocol.

Superintendent:
Now you've talked about the changes to the Dashboard. What are just some of the things for people to keep in mind when to check when it's updated? Those are not live updates by the way. The Dashboard is updated once per day.

Caleb:
Absolutely. We don't update in real time, although our school nurses do and they are inputting information and reporting information to the District all the time. And they're hard at work, making sure those numbers are reported, but the Dashboard only updates once a day. We will always have it updated by 1:00 PM, but our goal is to have it done as soon as possible each school day. And as soon as we've been able to get the morning's information from the County Health Department and verify it and make sure it everything is correct and that it will display correctly, we push it out. So it's visible to all of the schools and all of our patrons.

So it will be available on the District website, jordandistrict.org, and at movingforward.jordandistrict.org everyday by 1:00 PM. As soon as it's ready to go, we push it out live. You'll be able to see the date and the time that it was updated last so you know how current and how accurate the information is you're viewing.

Superintendent:
Well, thanks for your hard work on that. I'm glad that you mentioned the nurses. Our nurses have worked constantly to get that information updated and to help coordinate quarantines that are put in place through the Health Department. And many staff members are working really hard at the school and district level to make those numbers available and to take the appropriate action. So thank you for that. One of those numbers that we talked about that's reported is quarantine numbers. We expect those to go down dramatically, based on the new procedures that were put in place just before the holiday break. Mike Anderson, Associate Superintendent, talk to us about that change to the quarantine procedure.

Mike:
Yes. Quarantines have now changed from 14 days to 10 days. And the reason behind that is because the schools started implementing the seven day test and return protocol. In other words, a student who was on quarantine could test after seven days. If they were negative, they could come back to school. The County has been crunching all of that data and they realized that less than 1% of the student population was being impacted with a positive COVID test after being quarantined. It's a very low number. And so based on that, they reduced the quarantine requirement. They count from 14 to 10 and that's going to significantly impact our quarantine numbers. In addition to that, you don't need to quarantine if there was a school exposure that was mask on mask.

In the past, you would have to quarantine if you were exposed to anybody that was positive for COVID-19 within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes. Now, if you're at school and you have mask to mask exposure to someone that has COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine at all. There are two important things to remember with this. It only is pertaining to school related exposures, and it's only pertaining to those exposures that were mask on mask. Any instances at lunch or participating at in athletics or in certain classes where masks aren't worn, there could still be quarantines as the numbers that we've seen previously. But mostly, this should dramatically reduce the number of quarantine.

Superintendent:
Yeah, it really should.

Mike:
And you'll see some quarantines on the Dashboard because of non-mask exposure. Some of those may happen also at lunch where students have removed their masks to eat. But we should see a significantly overall reduced number for quarantines. And hopefully that also translates into a lower absenteeism. There were also some changes at the District and State level concerning the threshold at which a school would be considered to be moved to virtual instruction and the process for doing so. Right before the Thanksgiving break, the Jordan School District Board of Education voted to change that process so that the District Administration and the School Administration have a conversation when the school meets one of three thresholds for two school days in a row. That means not over a weekend or over a break, but for two school days in a row.

The three thresholds are as follows:

  1. If there are 15 cases at the elementary or middle school level or 1 percent of cases at the high school level.
  2. If 10% of the student body is on quarantine.
  3. If 20% of the student population is absent.

And those are the thresholds at which there's a conversation about moving the school to virtual instruction. After that decision was made in December, the State threshold actually changed to match those.

Superintendent:
Would you describe that if you don't mind?

Mike:
Yes. Our patrons shouldn't notice much of a difference at all because they are the same protocols that our Board had implemented prior to Thanksgiving. And that is for schools with more than 15 of 1500 students, you would have to reached 1% of the population testing positive for COVID-19. Before, a school would be considered to go virtual for schools less than 1500 students. The threshold remains at 15 days before you would be considered to pull virtual. And that includes all of our elementary and middle schools.

And if a school reaches one of those three thresholds on a day where they could have a second weekday where they meet that threshold, then they'll receive a notification for what's called an alert day and be made aware that they've met that threshold one day. If they meet the second day, they would be seriously considered to be moved to virtual instruction.

Superintendent:
Stay with us. We're going to take a short break and when we come back we will discuss what you need to know about new COVID protocols for students involved in athletics and other extracurricular activities.

Break:
If you ever feel like you need just some little extra support, maybe it's time to visit our Family Education Center. The Center located inside River's Edge School. We provide services and classes for family and students in Jordan School District, free of charge classes, like Blues Busters for children to help them worry less. There is a Pre-teen Communication Class for parents and Super Heroes Build-a-Plan that helps children with habits.  Jordan Family Education Center also offers short-term counseling and all three are provided by the District School Psychologists and Counselors. For information about classes and counseling call (801) 565-7442.

Superintendent:
Now, another the impact is on athletics and there's been a big change there. So let's talk with Brad Sorenson, Administrator over High Schools. This is athletics, extracurricular activities, anything that involves practice or rehearsals outside of the school day. Can you describe that procedure to us? And it's been very efficient at our schools. I must say, people have really jumped in and worked really hard to make this protocol work effectively.

Brad:
Yes, since just after Thanksgiving break, it's been required that students in all of our extracurricular activities be tested within a two week window. That testing continues every two weeks for all students who are participating in an activity that is more than just a one-time event. So that includes all of our athletics. It includes a lot of our performing art groups. It includes dance. It includes any groups that are meeting after school. And now, each school has set up a protocol and a process by which those groups would be tested every other week. Our schools do testing mainly on Fridays, but we've also had schools testing on different times during the week in order to accommodate all of those groups. So it's been a huge effort by the schools, and support staff. And again, the nurses who now have come in. They're the ones actually swabbing our students as they go through the testing. And those testing results determine kids' abilities to continue in those extracurricular activities.

Superintendent:
I happened to be at one of our high schools when that testing was going on. Large numbers of students moved through that process very quickly.

Brad:
School staff have been very organized and have worked hard to make that process go smoothly. And there had been some positive test results, but it's also allowed for safe continuation of extracurricular activities.

Superintendent:
And that's a Statewide protocol that's in place with an expectation. We continue to receive shipments on a regular basement basis of tests from the State. They are the rapid tests. It only takes about 15 minutes to get a result.

Brad:
Yeah, correct. Students will come in and, based on their assigned time, are usually in and out of that testing in 15 minutes at the longest, and they'll know their results through the system that sends them an automatic notification after the test has been confirmed positive or negative.

Superintendent:
Well, a lot of families and a lot of employees at the School District and State level working very hard to provide the best experience possible for students. Things are shifting all the time. We encourage you to visit the District website for updates. We'll continue to send out emails, as we did this week, to provide the latest information that we have available.

Thanks to the three of you for joining us. Thanks to families and employees out there who have been working so hard. We'll continue to follow these protocols and provide the best education and experience for students, employees, and families that we possibly can.

Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. And remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you.

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