DuBOIS — Superintendent Wendy Benton, at last Thursday’s board meeting, provided an update as to the DuBois Area School District’s current COVID-19 statistics, as well as some things that have been happening within the district, and recommendations for moving forward.
“The choice is yours,” said Benton. “As I said, this is going to be a whole community effort for us to be able keep our schools open. We remain committed to providing the four choices for families. If you feel that it is safer for your child to be home, if you’re able to provide that support, to help them to be successful as a distance learner, by all means, you should keep your child home. But we are committed to remaining open and taking it day by day, case by case, and responding accordingly.”
Last Monday, Benton said she had a call with the Pennsylvania Department of Education on behalf of the Department of Health to inform them that Clearfield County, for the first time, has reached a rate of substantial transmission within the county. She showed a map of Pennsylvania which showed that COVID cases are increasing at a rapid pace throughout the state. Jefferson County has had a substantial level of transmission for two weeks.
“We definitely need to change that as a community,” said Benton.
Part of the meeting last Monday with the PDE on behalf of the Department of Health was that they discussed the recommendations for determining instructional models.
“PDE suggests that we wait for two weeks of consistency within the level of transmission within the county before making a move,” said Benton. “The PDE has also said that as a school district, you should exhaust all options and weigh the risks of closures due to the irrevocable harm that it has caused to students when schools are closed. And we know that from the spring. We know the rates of abuse, neglect, the food insufficiencies, lack and loss of services, and of course, we know that the quality of education can not be matched whenever the students are sitting in front of our teachers within our school.”
Benton showed an updated chart on the COVID statistics specific to the individuals, the students, and the staff.
“We’re looking at about 4,300 individuals overall, whenever we consider everyone. This includes substitutes. This includes every person who is associated with our district so 4,000, approximately 4,300,” said Benton. “So over the past nine months, we have experienced 27 confirmed cases of COVID one probable case. And we have had to quarantine 146 individuals. You can see that three of our schools have had more cases than the others. We still have schools deliver elements, three schools that have yet to have a case, and I think given that the level of transmission in our community, that’s incredibly impressive. And that’s a tribute to, to the individuals that are working, providing the education, as well as leading in education, are doing an exceptional job.”
Benton noted that the quarantine is based on where the exposure was, not the location in which the patient resides.
During the first nine weeks of this school year in a hybrid learning setting, Benton noted that students weren’t doing very well.
“And this is something that concerns me really, because in our school district, we provide so much more than an education,” Benton said. “But our mission is to educate. So I saw a headline about another state and how poorly the students were performing in remote and hybrid instruction. And I thought, how are we doing? So you can see by grade level, the number of students that earned at least one D or an F in their classes during the first nine-week grading period.”
In fifth grade, 47 percent of students earned a grade D or an F in at least one class for the first nine weeks; 38 percent in sixth grade; 48 percent in seventh grade; 59 percent in eighth grade; 52 percent in ninth grade; 41 percent in 10th grade; 54 percent in 11th grade; and 38 percent in 12th grade.
“If this is what the kids were able to do with being in class every other day, I’m incredibly concerned of how this would look if we were completely remote,” said Benton. “And I think that this is something that we really need to keep in mind. There are many, many factors that we need to consider within our school districts, but our mission is to educate. And this is alarming. We have a lot of work to do to get these grades up.”
Benton said it’s really going to take a concerted effort from the community to take this seriously.
“For people that think that COVID isn’t real, or that it’s going to go away after the election, well it’s real, and it hasn’t,” said Benton. “And if you want to keep our schools open, it’s going to take every person to do their part and to really stop the spread within the community. Because when it’s spreading in our community, you’re bringing it into our school districts. The majority of the cases that we have are parents are getting sick, and our students are getting sick from the parents.”