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November 9, 2020 | Westside To Return to 'Yellow' Status November 20

The following message from Superintendent Dr. Mike Lucas was shared with all families and staff on November 9, 2020

WESTSIDE:                               

We wanted to provide you with another update as we inch towards Thanksgiving Break.  We are trying to find the right balance of not sounding like a broken record while providing you with continued insight from the school district’s perspective.

The spread of COVID-19 throughout our community as measured by confirmed cases per million per day is an important metric that local health experts have continued to emphasize with us.  Many experts believe this number needs to be less than 100.  As the data below shows, what we are doing as a community isn’t working.  Douglas County is going in the wrong direction and it is having a tremendously negative impact on our school district. 

  • On October 11th, this figure was 308.6.
  • On October 18th, this number increased to 425.1.
  • On October 25th, we had 398.1 confirmed cases per million per day.
  • On November 1st, the number increased to 510.3.
  • On November 6th, the total came in at 714.4.

As of this morning, November 9th, we have had a total of 57 student and 46 staff cases since school began.  The majority of those have come in recent weeks.  Our data, as well as data from around the county, continues to show the transmission rate within schools has been low but the impact of what is happening throughout our community is making it difficult for us.  Our number of confirmed cases AND quarantines are increasing.  Through contact tracing guidelines, it continues to be determined that the vast majority of our confirmed cases have originated outside of our schools.  

One of the greatest challenges we are encountering is managing the number of personnel that MUST quarantine due to exposure, primarily community exposure. This impacts us having enough teachers to teach, enough staff to provide meals, enough support staff to support our classroom teaching and learning initiatives, and enough staff to keep our buildings clean and safe.   

WE ARE GOING BACK TO OUR 50% YELLOW MODEL AFTER THANKSGIVING

We know this YELLOW model is difficult on our students, their families, and our staff.  However, we feel it is better than RED as we need to do everything we can to have as much direct contact with our students as possible. Our hope is to return to Green as soon as we can based on staffing availability, safety, and logistics.

Through on-going consultation with medical experts, we feel a move back to 50% will help us de-densify our buildings, increase social distancing, and give us a better chance to slow down the number of cases we have within our schools.  In Yellow, we also have more flexibility to move staff around to cover areas we are short in.  This will only work if our students/families adhere to COVID guidelines on the days they are not in our schools. 

  • We will remain in our GREEN model through the end of Friday, November 20. 
  • NO SCHOOL for students on Monday, November 23rd or Tuesday, November 24.
  • Students now get the entire week of Thanksgiving offNo remote or in-person learning
  • We will be in 50% YELLOW from Monday, November 30th – Friday, December 18th when our 1stsemester ends and Winter Break begins.
  • See updated, attached Calendar: Westside Schools Calendar, Updated November 9
  • We will make an updated announcement by December 18th as to what 2nd semester will look like as it begins on Tuesday, January 5th.

Over the past few weeks we have noticed more families keeping students at home that exhibit symptoms.  THANK YOU.  We have had several recent positive student cases confirmed where the students had already been out of school for several days once the symptoms started.  That’s what we need everyone to do. 

Below is an update of what we have seen throughout our school district in recent weeks.  Please keep in mind these case counts include ALL students and staff, to include the Foundation’s Early Childhood program and students/staff that might have already been on quarantine and out of our facilities well before they had a confirmed case.  The number of students we have learning from home through our “extended campus” changes on a regular basis.  We do include those confirmed cases even when they are part of our extended campus offering and not physically in our schools.  We take a lot of pride in and feel a tremendous amount of pressure around the clock, to be vigilant, transparent, and effective with our contact-tracing and adherence to all health department guidelines.   

 

Week of:

Total Student Cases

Total Staff Cases

TOTAL #

Sept 28 – Oct 4

4

3

7

Oct 5 – Oct 11

2

7

9

Oct 12 – Oct 18

9

6

15

Oct 19 – Oct 25

13 

21 

Oct 26 – Nov 1

7

13

Nov 2 – Nov 8 

17

7

24

 

As of now, we are planning to begin the NSAA winter activities season of swimming/diving, wrestling, and basketball with strict attendance guidelines that will keep our gym/pool area less than 20% full with spectators.  We do not have any evidence that shows our student participants are passing COVID-19 to one another or others.  

WHY DON'T WE SHIFT TO YELLOW IMMEDIATELY?

*** We wanted to give our families enough time to make alternate arrangements.  We know these decisions impact our families in different ways and we didn't think it would be fair to make a change within 4-5 days.

 *** We need to give our staff time to transition back to Yellow, which is a very difficult model.

*** We knew that since we have been offering an at-home/extended campus option all year that families that wanted/needed to transition now instead of waiting until the end of next week could do so.

WHY DON’T WE JUST GO TO “RED” WHERE EVERYONE LEARNS REMOTELY FROM HOME?

We’ve thought about it.  What concerns us is that unless our entire community makes that kind of commitment, us doing so won’t make an impact on the rate of community infection.  At the end of the day, we would weaken the educational experience for our students while the spread throughout the community will still NOT slow down due to the actions of others.  This is bigger than just Westside Community Schools. 

If we thought Westside Community Schools shutting down and learning remotely for 3-6 weeks would help curtail the spread of COVID-19 throughout Omaha, we would do so.  If we did close down entirely, we worry that too many of our students would be in environments that are less COVID-safe than what we provide.  We worry that too many of our students wouldn’t have access to the social-emotional supports, food, and camaraderie that schools provide.  

 We NEED Your HELP

We need ALL families to continue to help us.  PLEASE make sure you keep your child(ren) home if they exhibit any symptoms.  It is simply not fair to send them to school if you think there is even a chance they might be sick with any ailment.  PLEASE screen your child(ren) daily.  Below are several resources from our website at www.westside66.org that we can all use to help our families, school district, and community.  

 

List of COVID-19 Symptoms

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html  

 

On-Line Symptom SCREENER

https://ecds-cloud.childrensomaha.org/survey/edu-family/institution/9   

 

Contact Tracing Guidelines

https://www.westside66.org/domain/444  

 

How to Wear a Mask 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wear-cloth-face-coverings.html

 

How to Wash a Cloth Face Covering 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html

 

Thank you for your continued patience,

 

Mike Lucas 

Westside Community Schools

Innovation-Community-Excellence 

(402) 390-2100