With more than 100 cases of COVID-19 reported among staff and students, the Roswell Independent School District voted to take the precaution of having most staff work remotely for a full week after the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
With no change in the county’s status of not meeting the state’s gating criteria, the district will continue with remote learning. However, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 and again from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, almost all staff members will also work remotely. That will include teachers, administration and clerical staff. Students who are allowed in the buildings — those with individual education plans or children of district staff — would also learn remotely.
Exceptions will be cafeteria workers, who will prepare and pass out meals for those weeks on Nov. 30 and Jan. 4, and maintenance and custodial staff, who will work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of those weeks.
After briefly discussing the possibility of being fully remote from Nov. 30 until after the Christmas break, the board passed the original proposal 4-1. Board members Hilda Sanchez, Mona Kirk, James Edwards and Milburn Dolan voted in favor, with Board President Hope Morales the dissenting vote.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Dolan said. “No matter what happens on the holidays, people are going to get together. People are going to come from states with higher concentrations of COVID cases than we have. I think that by going with everybody working from home that possibly can, it would just maybe reduce some additional cases.”
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“Hopefully it will settle down what we’ve been going through right now. It has been very difficult,” RISD Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb said the district had 64 students who tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, and 56 staff members as of Tuesday.
“We have actually had to close down programs at schools,” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb told the Roswell Daily Record in a phone interview Wednesday certain programs or sections of a building have been closed as a precaution when COVID-19 cases are reported.
He declined to say which buildings, citing student privacy.
“We don’t have enough substitutes to take the place of the staff people there or I felt there was enough cases in a wing or a program that I just had to close it down for 14 days even though we do the deep cleaning and disinfecting. I have to make sure the people are OK and that nobody else has the virus,” he said.
“Some of those programs could be the staff kids that the state allows or some of our special education students. We just go back to remote (learning) for those kids via either a computer or packet, whatever the parent wants or has access to at that time,” he said.
Gottlieb told board members it’s possible the district will have to offer some compensatory services in the summer for those students to make up for lost learning time.
One building lost its entire janitorial staff after they showed up to clean up a weekend water-line break and one staff member later tested positive for COVID-19, Gottlieb told board members. The other staff members had to be quarantined for 14 days, with staff from other buildings being moved around to compensate.
For student meals during the weeks after the holidays, cafeteria staff will hand out breakfasts and lunches for the week on Nov. 30 and Jan. 4.
Dolan asked about the safety of handing out that many meals at once.
“My concern is the shelf life of the food. If it’s having to be prepared two or three days earlier, then it sits at home for six days, that’s nine days old on a prepared product,” he said.
“We’ve already had to do that,” Gottlieb said. “We have given out meals for five days. That’s allowable under the federal law and the state law.”
The board will review the post-Thanksgiving remote week at its December meeting and discuss whether or not a longer remote work time is needed.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.