Update On Lakeview High School; Why Did The Calhoun County Health Department Pause In-Person Instruction?
Yesterday I reported about an email sent by Blake Prewitt, superintendent of Battle Creek’s Lakeview schools, to the parents of Battle Creek’s Lakeview High School students informing them they are ending all in-person classroom instruction and moving back to all online instruction. Currently, this pause on in-person classroom instruction will last from Wednesday, September 15th through Friday, September 24th.
That email stated the reason for the pause of in-person classroom instruction was due to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases and a recommendation order from the Calhoun County Health Department. Part of the email stated:
“Due to an ongoing outbreak of COVID19 at Lakeview High School, the Calhoun County Public Health Department (CCPHD) notified us tonight that Lakeview High School will transition from in-person learning to distance learning starting tomorrow, Wednesday, September 15, through Friday, September 24th. This transition is for Lakeview High School students only. Students also will not attend in-person at the Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center or Calhoun Area Career Center. In-person learning will resume Monday, September 27th.”
That email did not answer all of the questions I and many parents and listeners to my show had.
After my show yesterday I spoke to Eric Pessell, Health Officer Calhoun County Public Health Department, to attempt to get a better understanding of why they paused in-person instruction. He informed me that due to many questions from parents concerning the suspension they were in the process of putting together a press release to explain their decision.
He also agreed to be on my show today, Thursday, at 9:30 to explain their decision in more detail and take some questions from me. If you are reading this after my interview you can hear the podcast of that interview at my flagship station WBCK.
The following is that Press Release:
Information on September 15, 2021, Lakeview High School In-person Learning Pause
Why was an in-person learning pause implemented?
- Since commencement of classroom instruction through 9/14/2021, a total of 31 positive cases (29 students and two staff) have been referred to the Health Department as part of a school associated COVID-19 outbreak. A total of 132 students are in quarantine as a result of exposure as a close contact to a positive case. These cases showed an onset of symptoms as early as August 28, 2021. This is the largest number of school-associated COVID-19 infections reported to the Health Department since the pandemic onset.
- Besides the number, the distribution has ranged across classrooms and grade levels
- In-class COVID-19 transmission has been documented by the Health Department
- Students attending class with symptoms have been reported
- The Delta variant is the primary COVID-19 variant in Michigan and is twice as contagious as previous strains
- COVID-19 infections have continued to be reported despite current mitigation measures in place
- The in-person learning pause prevents a large gathering of people while a known outbreak is occurring in the learning environment.
Why is the pause limited to in-person learning?
- Identified cases have been limited to the learning environment at the Lakeview High School Building thus far.
- Extracurricular activities do pose risk for transmission but activity-specific association (e.g. a sports team) has not been clearly identified as a place of ongoing transmission for this outbreak thus far. If such an association was identified, testing of the team/activity participants could inform isolation of cases and quarantine of contacts to prevent the spread within and external to these smaller groups.
- Lakeview students and staff are advised to avoid large gatherings at this time. Indoor events and car-pooling are higher risk. Outdoor gatherings are generally low risk, however, risk increases when prolonged periods of time are spent < 6 feet from each other and particularly when cheering or shouting is occurring.
Why is the pause limited to the Lakeview High School Building only?
- Continuing in-person learning when possible is paramount. The in-person learning pause is a population-level intervention for one specific learning environment. Students without symptoms and without known exposure may continue at other learning environments as long as COVID-19 prevention protocols are in place.
What can prevent future in-person learning pauses?
- Get vaccinated. All persons aged 12+ are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Only 35.6% of 12-19 year olds are vaccinated in Calhoun County. Only 49.8% of all those aged 12 years and older are vaccinated in Calhoun County.
- Do not come to school if you have symptoms of COVID-19. This significantly increases spread. Get tested, call your doctor, and stay away from others.
- Properly and consistently wear face masks in doors. Masking for all is important as the virus can be spread without symptoms in up to half of cases. Gators, bandannas, masks with valves or holes, masks that only have only one cloth layer, are not recommended. Ensure the mask covers both the nose and mouth unless eating or drinking.
- If you are exposed to a person with COVID-19, stay home and get tested.
- Ensure adequate ventilation in the school and consider open windows if weather allows • Ensure at least 3 feet of distance between students in a classroom setting
- Implement a COVID-19 screening test program. Screening testing identifies infected people, including those with or without symptoms (or before development of symptoms) who may be contagious, so that measures can be taken to prevent further transmission. Screening testing can help promptly identify and isolate cases, quarantine those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and are not fully vaccinated, and identify clusters to reduce the risk to in-person education
- Implement a COVID-19 testing program as outlined by MDHHS to ensure currently unvaccinated, exposed students have the opportunity to stay in school or have a modified quarantine period in order to limit the burden quarantine has on students, parents, and the community. A test-to-stay testing program is contingent upon masking.
Information on Lakeview High School Learning Pause
Now you know all the parties involved in this decision, reasons.