Schools remain virtual, decision to be week to week

Posted January 5, 2021 at 4:16 pm

Clinton County Schools were scheduled to return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. However, due to the number of staff who have become quarantined or isolated, Superintendent Dr. Tim Parson announced students will continue to be virtual during the first week of the new year.

Parson announced the decision on social media on Friday, January 1.

The Superintendent added that going forward in the immediate future, the situation would be evaluated and a decision as to whether to continue to virtual instruction, or move back to in person classroom instruction, would be made on a week to week basis.

In an interview with the Clinton County News on Monday morning, Parson said at the time he made the video, there were 25 staff members either in quarantine or in isolation due to a positive test.

The superintendent coupled that number with the shrinking number of available substitutes as the biggest factors in the decision to remain virtual only, at least for this week.

“Before the virus we probably had 15 reliable substitutes across the district,” Parson said. “People who work once or twice a week are not going to chance it. I get it … they aren’t going to expose themselves. On a good day when that number is at 15 … right now it’s like six or eight.”

Of the number of staff members, including teachers, Parson said around 70 of them have tested positive at some point during the year.

“That’s about 20 percent of our staff,” Parson said. “There are 113 people signed up for the vaccine whenever that’s available. So, we will have two-thirds of our staff with immunity, either from the vaccine or from already having it. That gets us in a much better place.”

During the 2020-2021 school year, Clinton County students have attended in-person instruction 32 out of 81 days, which comes close to 40 percent.

Each school year has around 170 instructional days.

“You hate to say it’s going to affect us the rest of this school year, but it probably will,” Parson said. “At this point, when we get to a little bit of immunity with our staff, I’ll feel better about it.”

When the vaccines are available to teachers, Parson said it won’t be a mandatory issue.

“I’m taking it … I’ve already told them I will,” Parson said of the COVID-19 vaccines. “On the legal side, I think all the forced vaccination issues were settled when the flu vaccine came out. It’s not going to be mandatory, but the latest executive order that came out about having to allow accommodations for staff who don’t feel comfortable will only last until the vaccine is made available.”

In other words, allowing staff members to work from home won’t be a requirement throughout the district once the vaccine is available for staff members.

“The way they see it, this is your chance to get back to work and if you choose to not get vaccinated then that’s your choice,” Parson said. “However, accommodations shouldn’t be expected to be made if you had a chance to take a vaccine that is safe and helpful.”

Parson said there is no way he can speculate on how the remainder of the school year will go.

“The vaccine is going to help, but if you look at the time-line we are looking at now, let’s say it’s the end of January before we get the first round of vaccine for teachers, twenty-eight days after that when they get the second round, well, we are talking about March. The school year ends in May, so it’s just a day to day thing,” Parson said. “We will just have to go with the flow of the community. We are going to go as the community goes and as the virus goes. We are trying … it’s just tough.”

As of Monday morning, there are 13 students who have tested positive, nine staff members with positive tests, 50 students quarantined and 19 staff who are quarantined.