Swan Valley schools mandate masks, St. Charles High goes remote as COVID-19 cases go up

Saginaw County Health Department using “layered” approach as it holds off on issuing mask mandate
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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SAGINAW COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - Two more Saginaw County school districts are adjusting as they try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

This comes after the Saginaw Township Community School’s Board of Education voted last night to mandate masks inside buildings starting on Monday.

The Saginaw County Health Department has not issued a mask mandate, but the public health officer says the department is working closely with the individual districts, as another district will implement a mask mandate, while another high school switches to remote learning.

“26 kids are out of school for a positive tests,” says St. Charles Community Schools Superintendent Michael Decker.

With those 26 high school students testing positive for COVID-19 over the past two weeks, the district has decided to put the high school in remote learning mode through September 24th. Decker says the high school’s positivity rate is going up and the contact tracing that goes with it was just too much to handle.

“The issue is that we ran into is we have a number of students, so many students that have been contact traced, just doing the tests alone we would have had been over 100 students a day,” says Decker.

The district has trained some employees to perform rapid tests, which have to be given to students who have had close contact with positive cases.

“Yesterday we had six people strictly doing contact tracing, they did nothing else during the course of the day,” says Decker.

And now the Swan Valley School District notified parents today that the district will begin a mask mandate starting tomorrow. The letter states 200 students and staff have already been impacted by COVID-19 this current school year.

Christina Harrington, the Saginaw County public health officer commends the districts for taking these steps, as the health department strongly recommends masking for schools, but is still not issuing a county-wide school mask mandate.

Back in St. Charles, face to face learning is scheduled to resume September 27th, but no decision has been made on mandating masks.

“One of the most important pieces students, staff, parents, have to remember, we are still in the pandemic, and we still have to do social distancing and hand washing,” says Decker.

The Saginaw Public Schools issued a mask mandate before classes began.

And again, last night, Saginaw Township schools will begin requiring masks inside school buildings on Monday.

Here is Christina Harrington’s full statement in regards to the actions taken by districts in the last two days.

“The Saginaw County Health Department communicates regularly with school districts to help them plan and implement a “layered” approach to COVID-19 prevention strategies based on local transmission rates. We commend Saginaw Township Schools, Swan Valley Schools and St. Charles Schools leadership for working closely with us, taking decisive action based on real-time data to protect students, staff and the entire school community. Our schools are working hard at controlling COVID and they are in constant communication with us here at SCHD, as witnessed by these actions seen this week.

Saginaw Township and Swan Valley– like Saginaw Public – are making a sound choice to require masks at this time. The number of cases concentrated in these districts – where our population is concentrated and community spread is more likely – suggests the need for added layers of protection.

St. Charles, having identified a cluster of positive cases during serial antigen testing, is adding another layer and will go virtual for two weeks to stop the transmission cycle.

During times of “high” transmission (which our county finds itself in now), the health department strongly recommends masking for schools, social distancing as much as feasible, testing, and cohorting and requires quarantine for students exposed as close contacts.

The health department provides districts with the tools and guidance on how to control the spread of COVID-19 and gives them choice on how to best implement within their facilities and school communities. We have maintained, even during these difficult times, a solid working relationship with all of our schools over the past 18 months and will continue to work with school leadership to manage transmission as necessary.”

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