Jal schools go remote for 4 days amid virus surgeCURTIS C. WYNNE NEWS-SUN
JAL — With an abundance of caution, and some degree of optimism, the Jal public schools closed in-person classrooms this week due to increased positive coronavirus tests.
Students returned to remote learning for four days.
Jal’s junior and senior high schools were dismissed early on Thursday after three staff members tested positive in routine tests, initially with plans to resume classes Monday. But additional test results came in.
“We decided to go remote. We reached the 5 percent threshold in cases of staff and students,” Jal School Superintendent Brian Snider told the News-Sun Monday. “So, for the safety of everybody, we’re just going to take these four days and come back after all the quarantines are over.”
Working on a four-day school week, Jal Schools are normally closed on Fridays.
“So all we have to do is go these four days,” Snider said. “Remote is not the best thing for students and we know that, but if we do four days, we can minimize the damage. We do not want to go remote very long at all.”
Recently revised guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced recommended quarantine or isolation time for those testing positive from 10 days to five days.
Parents and students were alerted to the decision over the weekend on the school system’s social media pages, with assurances classes will resume in person on Jan. 18 after the Martin Luther King Holiday.
“For the safety of students and staff, after a rapid rise in Covid cases in our community, we will be going into remote learning Monday, Jan. 10 – 14. Classes will resume in person on Jan. 18 following Martin Luther King Holiday,” the school system’s Facebook posting stated. “Teachers will be contacting students and parents concerning classroom assignments and devices.”
The posting also provided instructions for acquiring school lunches and breakfasts in the parking lot outside the cafeteria this week.
The published school calendar lists remote learning every day this week, as well as several basketball games, but Snider said those games, if actually conducted, will be different.
“We’ve already had to cancel the junior high (game) and, if we do high school, … we’ll do it with no fans in the stands,” Snider said. “Also, students at games, the whole team, will be tested before the game. We want to make sure before they get together, that they’ve all been tested.”
The superintendent noted the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but its relatively milder effect on the general population.
“I really believe this is the last roar of the lion. I may be wrong, but I believe the pandemic is kind of waning. The strains get a little less potent over time. I’m talking about Jal,” Snider said.
“People are getting sick and it’s kind of crippling us right now. It’s not as much of a mortality concern as it was, but we’re really experiencing a lot of delays and cancellations because of it,” Snider continued. “That’s just Jal. I don’t know about anybody else.”
According to Johns Hopkins data and the CDC, the Omicron variant has fueled a surge in the number of cases worldwide, with an average of 2.4 million new cases per day. The United State had the world’s highest daily national count at 670,000 cases on Sunday.
“There’s got to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Snider said, expressing hopes for an end to the pandemic. Meanwhile, he added, “We’re going to try everything we can (to prevent illnesses).”
Announcing the early out last Thursday, Snider told the News-Sun the school district keeps electronic devices available, charged and ready, to send home with students if schools are forced to return to remote learning, an extreme case not then in the plans for the district’s students.
“We’re basically always right there on the edge of being able to go (back to remote learning) at a minute’s notice,” Snider said Thursday. “We know it’s not good for kids to not be at school. But if we do, it would only be on a temporary basis.”
The increase in cases, however, resulted in the decision announced Sunday to exercise the temporary situation, with plans now to return to classrooms on Tuesday after the scheduled Monday federal holiday.
Jal parents were invited to contact either the high school or elementary school office for further information.
Curtis Wynne may be contacted at email@example.com .
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More on Jal Schools at: https://www.jalnm.org