Keeping students safe and educated continues to be the forefront mission as Upper Adams School District (UASD) board meeting discussed the continuing struggles of COVID-19 Tuesday.
Superintendent Wesley Doll acknowledged the various frustrations felt throughout the school district and acknowledged the desire that, “All of us would like to be beyond COVID, but that’s not happening,” he said.
Doll provided updates to the school district’s path forward through the year.
There are no medical doctors on staff at UASD, “So we are trying to do the best that we can with the resources that we have,” he said.
School nurses and administrators are continually meeting bi-weekly and as needed to discuss matters.
“We continue to look at this on a regular basis,” Doll said
Doll reiterated that keeping sick students home is crucial in slowing the spread of illness, noting that this year, the school district is seeing an increase from last year of students going to the nurse’s office and being sent home sick, he said.
“I know that it’s challenging, but if they are sick and showing symptoms, we would just ask that they remain home,” noting that students returning to school must be symptom and fever free for 24 hours without medication, Doll said.
Members of the community can continue to monitor the school district’s COVID-19 positive case tracker on the school district website that is updated weekly.
As of Tuesday, since implementing the health monitor on the district homepage Oct. 15, there have been 98 exposures and quarantines and 14 positive confirmed cases of COVID-19.
As of Tuesday, 71 students were in quarantine and 10 either students or adults that had been identified as positive for COVID-19, he said.
The school district has been requested by the state to include reports of quarantine and positive cases by each building, he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to make recommendations in November regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to under 12 years old, according to Doll.
The school board has no authority to mandate vaccines, and “no desire,” to do so, Board President Tom Wilson said.
Board Member Bruce Hollabaugh questioned the district’s current quarantine policy and suggested a relaxation in the quarantine protocols, citing his own son who was quarantined twice in several weeks, missing a field trip.
“Are we making the right decision by preventing healthy kids from being in school?” he asked.
Board Member Jim Lady questioned the necessity of quarantine for masked students after possible exposure.
“I thought the mask was supposed to be protecting them,” he said.
While about 84% of students continue to wear masks, there are many different factors as to why a class would be quarantined including class size, distancing, and time spent together, according to Doll.
The directive decided upon by the school board before the school year began was to keep kids in school and as safely as feasible, he said.
“We are trying to provide as normal an education as possible for them,” Doll said.
Doll said he was willing to consider looking at what other school districts were implementing and discuss more recommendations with school nurses on how to proceed.
“Our teachers are doing a dynamic job. Although that may be one class, that teacher is still teaching another class that wasn’t quarantined so that teacher now has to teach both remotely and face to face. So there are challenges that some of us may not be seeing the whole picture here when we’re looking through and trying to create a plan that balances all the variables that are at play,” Doll said.
Adding to the multiple variables including the possibilities of not having substitute teachers or administrators, “It is a challenging time to be in education and we are not going to satisfy everyone, I’ve come to that conclusion. It keeps me up at night,” Doll said.
The UASD health monitor can be found on the home page of the district website at https://www.upperadams.org/.
The school board will next join for a regular meeting Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.
A.L. Grabenstein, reporter, is a graduate of Philadelphia's La Salle University with a B.A in Communication and has been a journalist since 2016. She has reported for the Gettysburg Times and the Times Herald in Norristown, PA. Grabenstein moved to Gettysburg from Montgomery County in 2019. She was born in San Antonio, TX., and previously lived in Virginia, and North Carolina. Grabenstein is actively involved in the borough of Gettysburg and loves giving voices to the local community.