Making the best of a tough situation

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Hamilton Local Schools administrators and staff want kids in school, but if a child becomes ill while in school, chances are they are going right back home out of caution during the time of a global pandemic.

“I’ve had three different parents tell me that if their child shows any sign whatsoever, that they’re not feeling well, they get sent home,” said school board member Walley Obert during an Oct. 12 Hamilton Schools Board of Education meeting. “I said yes, that’s true. There’s zero tolerance. We’re not taking any chances whatsoever. We don’t want to have to go into quarantine and I guess that’s working out really good.”

Superintendent Mark Tyler agreed.

“As predicted, we have very few cases,” said Tyler. “We have two cases district-wide and were able to deal with those cases very effectively.”

One of the students was a soccer player and the diagnosis resulted in a quarantine of those in direct contact with the student. Tyler said, while the school system is in a 50/50 model during the regular academic day, students are maintaining six feet of social distancing.

“All of that’s gone to plan at this point,” said Tyler. “With almost 3,500 people, with students and staff in our total make-up, to have only two cases, I’m pleased with that. I’d rather have none, but two is a pretty good number at this point.”

If students or staff become ill while they are in the building, they are isolated and the district response is dependent on two sets of criteria.

Tyler said, under one list of criteria symptoms, if an individual is encountering even just one, they are sent home. The second set requires two or more symptoms.

“At any rate, they are fairly generic symptoms,” Tyler said.

For example, if a person presents a fever symptom of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they are sent home on isolation and cannot return until they go through the COVID-19 protocol—cleared by a doctor, been out of school for two weeks or test negative.

“We’re having a lot of people go out on isolation because the symptoms are so generic,” Tyler said. “Ninety-eight percent of them could come back to us without being COVID-19.”

If a student is out as a result of isolation, the child is counted as being quarantined, which shows up in school system data as an absence. However, if while on a COVID-19 related quarantine or isolation they complete all of their assigned schoolwork, those absences are changed to marking the student as present.

“It’s kind of tricky,” said Tyler. “We’re continuing to monitor this. We’re constantly having conversations with our health department. We’re constantly having conversations with our mayor’s office. We’re always looking at what’s the best option for our students…I’m very proud of our teachers. I’m very proud of our students. I’m very proud of our parents for making the best possible out of a bad situation.”

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