Sign of Encouragement

This message of encouragement recently appeared on the Lewis & Clark Elementary School reader board adjacent to the school.

Lewis & Clark Elementary School's in-person education will pause beginning Monday, Sept. 27, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The Chronicle first reported the announcement from the St. Helens School District on Friday morning, Sept. 24.

On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 25, District Superintendent Scot Stockwell released the following letter sent to district families.

Dear St. Helens Community,

As many of you may know, starting on Monday, September 27, 2021, the St. Helens School District will strategically place a ‘pause’ at Lewis & Clark Elementary to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Although the length of the in-person school pause has yet to be determined, we are working with Public Health and anticipate it to be at least one week. We will keep our Lewis & Clark families informed of any changes to the timeline.

Lewis & Clark Elementary will continue to provide meals to its students while on ‘pause’ starting on Monday, September 27, 2021, from 10:30 a.m.– 12 p.m. In addition, we will reach out to families shortly as soon as we have more detailed information in regards to remote learning for Lewis & Clark students.

Many have asked what criteria we use when considering closing a school due to COVID-19. It is not a simple answer as there are several factors guiding the decision in consultation with experts in the field and every situation is unique. Much like deciding to close school due to a snow event, the safety of students and staff is the number one driving factor.

When we close school due to snow, we pay attention to the weather forecast, consult with transportation experts and drive the roads to collect local data and make the best decision possible. Similarly, we pay attention to current community COVID-19 spread data, consult with health experts, and monitor what is going on in our individual schools. Both are subjective decisions made with the best information available and difficult to put on an exact timeframe.

The following are criteria we consider when deciding if we need to close a school for a "pause" to in-person learning:

  • Documented transmission occurring in schools
  • The ability of Public Health and schools to contact trace cases
  • Number of students quarantined
  • Number of staff quarantined or having enough staff members available to support students

In our current situation at Lewis & Clark Elementary, we had multiple children out sick with COVID-19 symptoms in several of our primary grade classrooms. As the week progressed, we began having children in our upper elementary grade classrooms calling in to report COVID-19 like symptoms as well. With students out in all grade levels and the number of classrooms that had at least one child out with COVID-19 symptoms increasing, the District and Public Health's ability to contact trace possible cases was being exceeded.

It was at this time the decision was made to "pause" in-person instruction so we could identify and support all possible cases and conduct a deep cleaning of the school. In addition, we are working with families to identify positive for COVID-19 cases from those who simply have a common cold.

Due to the fact that COVID-19 symptoms start out very similar to the common cold, it is imperative to keep children home if they are symptomatic in any way. We understand this is a challenging time for everyone, especially our children, yet it just takes one person to quickly create a situation where we need to put a school on pause and close it to in-person instruction. The only way we will be able to keep schools open is if we all work together as a community.

The St. Helens School District is prepared to shift from in-person instruction to remote learning when needed, but like a snowstorm, each event has its own unique characteristics and we will respond as best we can with the information provided at the time.

I have tremendous faith in this community to pull together and support one another. I've watch it during the floods of 1996 when every able-bodied person was sandbagging neighbors' homes and most recently during the fires last year in 2020 when this community pulled together to support other communities impacted by wildfires.

It is time for us to come together once again and do whatever we are able to do to stop the spread of this virus and keep our schools open for our children.

Take care and be well,

Scot

Follow this developing story here online and in the Wednesday print edition of The Chronicle.

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