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Reopening Q&A, COVID-19 Dashboard, and Video Update

14 January 2021

HCSWe want to open schools as safely as possible.  Nothing replaces the rich experience of in-person, face-to-face instruction.  Though we find ourselves in an unprecedented school year - safety remains our top priority for students and employees.

We have constant, open communication with local and state health officials.  Their research indicates that cases and positivity rates in Hoover remain relatively high.  Moreover, public health officials are not sure if we have seen the end of the highly-predicted New Year's surge. There is significant risk that not being prudent in our reopening strategy will lead to unwanted closing of schools

Please know these decisions are not made lightly; they are made with the health and safety of our students, employees, and community in mind. This is a fluid situation, and these plans are subject to change. 

HCS COVID-19 Dashboard

Q: When will Hoover City Schools move away from staggered scheduling?

A: Though misinformation has circulated throughout the community that we may remain staggered or fully virtual indefinitely, our plan is to return elementary students to four days a week (Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri) beginning January 19, 2021.  Wednesday will remain virtual for all students in order to allow teachers to get ahead with planning and for campuses to be deep-cleaned.

Q: Why are middle school and high school students not a part of the reopening the week of January 19th?

A: Elementary students are more easily contained to one classroom than middle school and high school students who change classes each period. One positive high school student with nine classes can have approximately 40 close contacts (not including lunch or extracurricular activities).  On a regular schedule, we are not able to socially distance.

Q: When could middle and high schools reopen?

A: As we mentioned, these reopening plans are fluid and subject to change. Based on the success of elementary schools reopening, middle schools could reopen on or around February 1st. One to two weeks later, we could see high schools reopen. 

Q: Why are other districts able to offer full face-to-face education?

A: The issue right now stems from a volume and capacity aspect. Other districts have less students than HCS, which makes it easier for them to practice social distancing in classrooms. While our classrooms and other facilities, such as cafeterias or gymnasiums may be similar in size to other districts, our volume of students is larger, which makes social distancing more challenging. 

Q: At what point might a school be closed entirely?

A: If conditions as dictated by public health guidelines deem a campus unsafe - and/or there are not enough personnel to safely and effectively operate a campus - the district will have no choice other than to close that campus.

Q: Why can’t the school system just hire more substitute teachers and substitute bus drivers?

A:  This issue is not unique to Hoover City Schools.  We compete with surrounding districts - all pulling from the same sub pool.  Some subs have indicated to us they do not want to work in schools during a pandemic.  In other cases, the subs themselves have contracted COVID or been identified as a close contact and thus have had to quarantine.  Overall, we are using more subs district-wide, which stretches our sub pool very thin on any given day.

Q: What can my household do to help?

A: If your child has a fever or is exhibiting COVID symptoms, please keep them home. We will get through this difficult time. We are hopeful that educators will receive the vaccine soon.  Our students’ academic, emotional and physical well-being is important to all of us. If your child needs to speak with a counselor, there is a form available on our district and school websites. We appreciate your support as we phase in the reopening of our schools.   

Q: When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available for school employees?

A: School employees, who are considered front line essential workers, are in the second phase to receive the vaccine.  The Jefferson County Health Department hopes school employees will receive their first vaccine by mid to late February and the second dose by March.

Q: Who is on the District Coronavirus Task Force?

A: The District Coronavirus Task Force is comprised of district administrators, school administrators, the lead nurse for HCS, all of whom are in consultation with local health officials. 

Q: Who is handling contact tracing?

A: Each School Nurse is performing contract tracing at school when she receives a report of COVID-19 positive person on campus. Principals, Assistant. Principals, Transportation and anyone else needed is assisting in the contact tracing at school. Teachers are questioned about the ability to social distance in the classroom and placement of desks, etc. Anyone determined to be within less than 6 feet distance for a period of 15 minutes or more is identified as a Close Contact and instructed to quarantine according to ADPH quarantine guidelines. It does not matter if both parties are masked or not. Masks are an additional layer of protection against spread of COVID-19 but are not a factor in identifying close contacts. 

Q: If I have had COVID-19, do I need to quarantine if exposed again?

A: Close contacts who were diagnosed with COVID-19 by either (1) a positive Rapid Test or PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA within the last 90 days or (2) a healthcare provider based on their symptoms, and 90 days or less have passed since their symptoms began.

  • Those with no current symptoms of COVID-19 do not have to quarantine, and retesting is not recommended.
  • Those with symptoms should begin self-isolation immediately for 10 days after symptom onset and consult with a medical provider to determine if they may have been re-infected with SARS-CoV-2 or if symptoms are caused by another etiology.

Q: Are close contacts contracting COVID-19?

A: We do have reports of individuals who have been sent home due to Close Contact status at school developing symptoms and subsequently testing COVID-19 Positive. We do track this information when provided to us by the individual involved or their parent/guardian

Q: Why do we quarantine 10 to 12 days instead of seven?

A:  Hoover City Schools strictly follows the ADPH Back to School Toolkit. The current version can be found online on the ADPH Covid-19 website. CDC and ADPH both state that 14 days of Close Contact Quarantine is still the best and preferred quarantine timeframe. BUT, CDC announced in early December that evidence shows 10 days of close contact quarantine may be allowable if the person has absolutely no symptoms and agrees to monitor for symptoms during days 11-14. CDC also stated that a close contact quarantine of 7 days may be allowable if the person has absolutely no symptoms and has a negative COVID-19 test result on or after day 5. Both options carry a significantly higher risk of releasing contagious persons from quarantine at 10 or 7 days as opposed to the preferred 14 day close contact quarantine. CDC stated they are allowing State Government and Public Health Officials to determine if adopting the new options were appropriate in their State, based on the COVID-19 status in their State. Alabama Public Health Officials determined that the 7 day option is not appropriate for the State of Alabama with the current COVID-19 situation but they would allow the 10 day close contact quarantine option if individuals meet the associated criteria.  The ADPH Back to School Toolkit was updated on 12/11/2020 to reflect the change, and Hoover City Schools adopted the practice on that date along with other Districts in our area. 

Q: Does the district have a mobile app?

A: While many of you may have a Hoover City Schools app currently, the contract for the app was not renewed, which makes the app inactive. At this time, the best source of information is the HCS website. 

Q: What should I do if my student is experiencing mental health issues? 

A: If your student is struggling emotionally, please reach out to your school counselor who is able to assist in a variety of ways including providing information and resources.   If you have a safety or medical emergency and need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room.  

Q: How does my student receive mental health assistance?

A: You can also complete the District Counselor Request Form to request assistance. 

Please be advised this form and any emails/messages you have left with a counselor are not monitored 24 hours a day/7 days a week. If you have a safety or medical emergency and need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room.  

Q: How will I learn of any changes or updates to these plans? 

A: Any changes or updates to these reopening plans will be shared on the Hoover City Schools website, social media pages and mass communication system. 

 

Hoover City Schools’ Reopening Plans remain fluid and subject to change. We will follow the Alabama Health Department (ADPH) recommendations for close contacts. If an individual is within 6 feet for 15 or more cumulative minutes, the individual must quarantine for 10-14 days depending on whether or not they have symptoms.  We ask parents to keep their kids at home if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Again, if you have a safety or medical emergency and need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room.  

As vaccinations come about and awareness remains high, we are hopeful.  We are all in this together.  A return to normalcy, a 5-day school week in our case, will only come about with commitment and collaboration.

 

Quick Links

Mental Health Resources for Students During COVID-19

District Counselor Request Form

Alabama Department of Public Health Back to School Toolkit

Jefferson County Department of Public Health

Curriculum Q&A on Reopening Schools