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Schools in Shelby County and COVID-19

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Schools in Shelby County and COVID-19

At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, IDPH released Return-to-Learn Guidance to state schools recommending that they consider moving from in-classroom to online learning or hybrid learning models if the Covid-19 positivity rate increased to greater than 15%. That recommendation was based on the assumption that the schools would be driving the community spread of the virus. However, over the past 3 months it has become clear that the schools, at least in Shelby County, are not driving the community spread of the virus.

In fact, we have seen that the structured environment of the schools, with good preventative practices (masks, hand washing, social distancing, etc.), have actually been quite successful at preventing the spread of Covid-19 from student-to-student. Very few of our community cases of Covid-19 are currently coming from our schools. As most of you probably know, we now have a county Covid-19 positivity rate of greater than 15%. However, for the reasons stated above, we believe that it is no longer necessary to close our schools to in-classroom learning and go to an online model.

Like is often the case in medical practice, management changes as new information becomes available. We now believe that it is in the student’s and community’s best interest to keep our kids in school. As already stated, the schools are a structured and supervised environment where standard preventive measures are utilized effectively to keep our kids learning, active, and as healthy as possible. If we return all of these kids to home and other places in the community, they are much less likely to adhere to prevention recommendations, and will perhaps become a bigger part of the problem as we see cases of Covid-19 continue to rise.

Of course, if the cases in the county continue to rise, there will likely come a time when the schools will have to go to an online learning model. However, at this time there is no longer a definite positivity rate that would mandate that decision. The Board of Health and the School Board will continue to look at the big picture and strive to do what is best for the school and the community.