A total of 70 Lynchburg-Clay students will return to school from quarantine between Monday and Wednesday next week, superintendent Brett Justice reported at the district’s Thursday board of education meeting. Justice estimated that around 20 additional students were in quarantine as of Thursday.
“We’ve only had four positive cases, but you’re looking at about 90 kids who have personally been affected by it. And none of those kids, at this moment, have tested positive,” Justice said. “They may not have [been tested] — they may have just said, ‘I’m going to take my quarantine; I’m not going to get tested.’”
Justice also discussed his decision to write a letter to Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner, requesting that Warner shorten the quarantine period for students exposed to COVID-19.
“I don’t want to insult [Warner] because he has been a tremendous help for us — they’ve been in contact with us, they’ve done a lot of guidance for us, and that’s been great,” Justice said. “Fourteen days seems like a long time for quarantine, and it is for kids, too. All the sudden, you’re asking kids to learn in a different mode when you send them home, and then they have to come back into it. It’s just a tough situation.”
Justice added, “If it’s out of [Warner’s] control, that’s fine. Maybe he can point me to somebody I can send an email to and just ask.”
Board member Kristen Greenawalt pointed out that the length of quarantine is a recommendation from “the governor and the state.”
“Say you’ve had Covid, and I’ve been in contact with you,” Greenawalt said. “I have to quarantine, and my symptoms aren’t going to show up until at least five to seven days after my contact with you. I’m not going to be in the clear for a whole other week.”
Justice did not respond to The Times-Gazette’s request for a copy of the letter to Warner as of press time.
In previous interviews, Warner told The Times-Gazette that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set the standard for a 14-day quarantine as a person exposed to COVID-19 may develop symptoms between two to 14 days after exposure.
Board members also celebrated the extension of the USDA’s waivers on student meals, which allow school district’s to provide their students with breakfast and lunch at no cost.
“That reimbursement that we’re getting for everybody eating free and reduced seems like it’s going to benefit us,” treasurer Richard Hawk said. “A lot more kids are eating, even with the virtual kids at home.”
The board members revealed that the district’s virtual students have not benefited from the USDA’s waivers for student meals, which have allowed other Highland County school districts to provide free breakfast and lunch for both on-campus and virtual students since mid-September.
“We’ve looked at that, but we didn’t feel like we had the staff to do it or the means to get it to their houses,” Hawk said. “We decided not to do anything with the virtual kids. …We know there are probably some virtual kids who were eating here, but the way we read it, we would have to get the food to them, and we had no means to do that.”
The USDA announced in September that it would allow parents and guardians to pick up meals for children, among other flexibilities that make it possible for school districts to provide all students with access to nutritious meals until June 30, 2021.
Board members indicated that they were unaware of such flexibilities until Thursday’s meeting and expressed confusion for the logistics involved in distributing meals to virtual students.
In other news from the meeting:
* Hawk reported that the district received $203,000 in student wellness funds from the state, which he added is $76,000 more than last year.
“We’re in really decent shape right now,” Hawk said.
Hawk did not provide a breakdown of how the district would spend the student wellness funds, and Justice did not respond to The Times-Gazette’s request for a breakdown of the services and expenses for which the district would use this year’s student wellness funds as of press time.
* Board member Brad Hess presented a Lynchburg-Clay family’s request to allow their child, who is a student-athlete, to transition into virtual learning.
“They would like to transfer him to online just to stay away so he doesn’t get in the window of being quarantined with no symptoms just because he was around someone [who tested positive for COVID-19],” Hess said. “They wanted to know what he could do on it.”
Justice replied, “The only problem that could exist is that you would have every athlete running to get online. If it’s a fear of that part.”
Justice added that it would be difficult to find virtual classes that align with courses students are currently taking in-person with Lynchburg-Clay instructors.
* Hawk reported that the district’s athletic fund is “in the negative” by around $6,500.
“We have had a few more receipts than I expected from the games we’ve had,” Hawk said, “but if we don’t have a turnaround from basketball, we’ll probably end the year having to put some money in there from the general fund, the way it looks.”
Justice indicated that he hopes the state will allow sports venues to increase their capacity from 15 percent to 20 percent.
* Justice reported that the Highland County Health Department approved the district’s request to expand capacity for girls’ and boys’ soccer tournaments, which will include the use of grassy areas for seating to allow for social distancing.
This will increase the event’s capacity from 176 to 296.
* Hawk reported that the district has paid off its new sports facility and the turf.
The district’s new sports facility will be complete with the addition of baseball nets, which will arrive on Nov. 2, Justice reported.
Justice also sought the board’s approval for an additional $20,000 for the weight room, which he stated would be used to purchase exercise machines based on coaches’ requests.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.