Jacksonville School District 117 continues to see good results from COVID mitigation efforts in the return to school plan, but administrators worry the upcoming holiday season could be a big issue before it is over.
District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek says that if someone had told him in August that by the first of November the district would have only had COVID contact related issues in three classrooms, he says he would take it.
At the beginning of the year two Early Years classrooms were isolated and Ptacek says now one other class is currently isolated.
Ptacek says overall the district is doing very well with not having outbreaks of the virus in classrooms, and a lot of that success is due to cooperation from the community.
“The community has done a great job in helping support us, their social distancing, their masks. The numbers are obviously increasing in the county. I just sent an email out to the community on Monday that our numbers this Monday for the staff were better than the previous Monday. We did have the incident at J.M.S. But a good share of those staff are back now.
We are seeing more quarantining of students, not school related, but because of being in close contact with family members has our numbers increasing. But it is what it is, and we are not causing any spread, but we are having to deal with the high numbers in the county.”
Ptacek says sticking to the protocols of wearing masks, social distancing and especially contact tracing of positive cases and immediate isolation of exposed individuals have made it possible for Jacksonville schools to remain engaged with in-person learning to this point.
Ptacek says however that with some continued quarantining of staff members, the Thanksgiving holiday break will likely be a big challenge for the district.
“We understand with how the numbers are increasing that even if the school right now cannot be viewed as a source of spread, other than that one case we had at J.M.S. Outside of that we are still feeling the impact of a loss of staff due to quarantine that we are preparing for the reality of, if it increases in the county following Thanksgiving and that if the numbers get so high, that if we don’t have the staff to adequately staff our buildings, then that is a realistic possibility of us having to move to full remote learning.”
Ptacek says every school district is fighting a different level of a battle with the coronavirus, and definitely when it comes to staff, some districts are feeling it more than others.