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Dr. Sue Savaglio-Jarvis: Unified holding its own during the pandemic
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Dr. Sue Savaglio-Jarvis: Unified holding its own during the pandemic

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As we end the fifth week of school and near the end of the first quarter, I want to take a moment to say thank you to our students, staff, families and community. The school year has been going extremely well thanks to everyone working together to acclimate to the unusual changes we have had to implement due to the global pandemic that continues to plague our world.

They say to do what is right, not what is easy. That seems to be this year’s theme as we have planned, implemented, adjusted and more since March. As you know, even the best made plans are not perfect. As we developed the Return 2020 plan, we were realistic in knowing that it wasn’t a matter of if, but rather when, a positive COVID-19 case would impact one of our buildings and how we would work to prevent the spread once this occurred.

The good news is that this virus is not spreading in our schools thanks to our strategic mitigation efforts. While we know there was great fear and concern surrounding this happening, we are pleased to share that our concerted efforts and strategies have prevented our in-person students and staff from contributing to the spread of this virus in our community, which has been shared with us time and time again.

Some of our strategies include a face mask requirement, limited movement and physical distancing to the best of our ability, and increased hand-washing. It has been impressive to see how quickly our students adapted to these new requirements and how they have become part of the daily routine in our buildings.

In addition, we worked closely with the Kenosha County Division of Health and other school districts in Kenosha County to determine how best to handle a positive case. Through this collaboration, it was decided that if an in-person staff or student were to become COVID-positive, classwide quarantines would be implemented and they would switch to virtual learning for the duration of the quarantine period. While we understand this may not be ideal and realize the impact it has on our families, it has worked well to prevent the spread in our buildings, thereby keeping more families safe and healthy throughout our community. This is a prime example of doing what is right, not easy.

We’d further like to share that it has been decided that the district will implement the KCDH thresholds for determining when to move a school or the entire district to virtual learning. The following indicators will trigger a transition to all virtual learning (please note: all metrics are subject to change based on new guidance from public health officials):

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Fewer than 3% positive cases in a school within the last 14 days (based on the cumulative total of in-person staff and student COVID-positive cases divided by the total in-person staff and student population).

A significant community outbreak is occurring or has recently occurred (large community event or local employer) and is impacting multiple staff, students, and families served by the community such that the KCDH directs KUSD to close buildings.

Staff absences, due to individuals personally testing positive or being required to self-quarantine as a close contact, reach a level that has the potential to compromise the safety or fidelity of the learning environment.

It is important to note that each closure decision will be made on a case-by-case basis and nothing prevents the district from moving to virtual learning for reasons other than those outlined above. For example, we have moved a few schools to fully virtual learning when positive cases caused a large enough quarantine ripple that prevented us from having enough sub coverage for in-person learners and as such virtual learning was implemented for all to ensure a continuity of learning. We realize this is not a perfect approach, but we must do what is in the best interest of students, as well as the health and safety of all when making these difficult decisions.

We know that there is no one size fits all plan and we have been pleased with offering our families a choice in their child’s learning as it relates to in-person or virtual, which is why we hope these efforts can be appreciated and supported by all. We also are beyond proud of staff for coming together to offer the best learning environment they can during these trying times. This includes heart-filled lesson planning for in-person and virtual learning, endless disinfecting of buildings, continuous brainstorming of how to support students both in and out of our buildings, mindful meal prepping to serve all students, and much more. We are committed to reviewing, adjusting and enhancing the plan as things continue to unfold in the months ahead, again, always with the best interest of our students at the helm.

I have been in more than 20 schools and have seen firsthand the efforts, strength, passion, determination, and most importantly love for all. I have seen teachers want to hug a child, yet providing an elbow bump or tender smile behind a mask instead. I have seen staff and students share joy and tears when something great happens. I have seen students engaging through computer screens while teachers are in classrooms. Overall, I have seen amazing things happening in our classrooms.

I once heard the saying, great things never come from comfort zones. This year has been far from comforting, but I see great things emerging from the push out of our comfort zones into new challenges and obstacles. I believe this will lead to us all growing and becoming better than before.

And lastly, Nelson Mandela shared, “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.” Together we will get through this as winners and great dreamers who will not give up. Our students and children need us to shine through it all.

Dr. Sue Savaglio-Jarvis is superintendent of the Kenosha Unified School District.

We know that there is no one size fits all plan and we have been pleased with offering our families a choice in their child’s learning as it relates to in-person or virtual, which is why we hope these efforts can be appreciated and supported by all.

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