On Friday, November 20, 2020, the Fairbanks Local Board of Education voted to transition to Learning Level 2 following Thanksgiving Break. Each member of our school community wants students in school as much as possible. The current COVID-19 conditions in our community make 100% of students in the building terribly challenging. Potential transmission, quarantines, and staffing shortages create significant barriers to the continuity of services.
Last week, we met with several groups to begin discussing a potential shift in Learning Levels, as cases within both the school and community began to increase. Beginning on Monday, we met with the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, composed of 11th and 12th grade students to gain a student perspective. Following the Advisory Council meeting, an update on the situation with COVID both inside and outside of our schools was provided to the Board of Education in their regular monthly meeting. Between Tuesday and Thursday, we conducted meetings with our administrative team, certified and classified staff, our Parent Reopening Work Groups, and held a community meeting. There were roughly 200 school community members that provided thoughts and feedback leading to a discussion and decision by the board on Friday.
This option presents a balanced approach to the current conditions facing our community. It provides some face-to-face instruction and connections with peers, while creating physical distance in many school environments. Physical distancing is a mitigation barrier for transmission and limits the number potential close contacts (i.e. quarantines) throughout the school day. Based on feedback we have received from students, parents, and staff, there are several things our schools have learned as we transition back to our hybrid model. Principals and teachers are working together to improve practices from earlier this year.
Our extracurricular activities will continue as scheduled at this point. For many students, these activities provide an outlet during a challenging time. Doing this safely allows for positive relationships to be built and students to connect with activities they are passionate about. Our winter sports do present different challenges than our fall sports. They will be monitored as play resumes next week. Continued focus on safety protocols and all individuals staying home when showing any symptoms is very important.
Under the current conditions, Learning Level 2 provides a balanced approach for our schools. However, it does not resolve all potential issues. Staffing will continue to be monitored and adjusted regularly. COVID-19 related absences, on top of regular absences, stretches our human resources. Operational staff, such as custodians and transportation, do not have a deep pool of substitutes. Our department leaders have developed various scenarios for coverage across these areas, but a shift may happen very quickly, impacting our families.
This year will continue to require each of us to be nimble. This will not be our last transition. We expect to be in Learning Level 2 until the January 13th board meeting. At that time, we will look at our community conditions to see if a change is warranted. Heading into the next several weeks Learning Level 2 provides a balanced approach to continuing face-to-face learning across our schools.
As always, please reach out with any questions or to discuss our schools at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to review our current COVID-19 data, you can view it here: https://www.fairbanks.k12.oh.us/covid-reporting