CONWAY — The numbers are going in the wrong direction said Superintendent Kevin Richard as Kennett High was forced Tuesday to go to remote learning for the second time in three weeks due to COVID-19.
“Cases are popping up all over the place (at the high school),” Richard said by phone Tuesday. “It’s a staffing issue again. That’s what really triggered the need to go remote. Kevin (Carpenter, principal at Kennett High) said 14 staff members have to isolate because of different cases.
“The numbers we are seeing now are like what we saw at the beginning of January and February," Richard said.
"We had 42 new cases in Conway just last week (according to the Department of Health and Human Services),” he added.
Kennett went remote for the first time in the 2020-21 school year on March 17 for three days after three cases led to the need to stop face-to-face learning.
Kennett High reported its first case in the SAU on Oct. 8, 2020, which led to 10 students having to quarantine for two weeks.
Five cases since last Friday led to the decision Monday afternoon to go remote.
Carpenter sent out an email to the families of every Kennett student on Monday, saying, “We are reaching out to all Kennett High School families to let you know that we will be transitioning to remote learning starting tomorrow, Tuesday, April 6, through Friday, April 9, with a planned return to face to face instruction on Monday, April 12.
“Students will continue to follow the regular in-person schedule this week with classes starting promptly at 7:30 a.m. and running through 1:20 p.m."
He added: “The difficult decision to make this transition is a result of a shortage of staff to provide face-to-face instruction due to the number of staff that are out on quarantine.
"We ask all of our families to please, now more than ever, continue to be vigilant in following all guidelines for the prevention and spread of COVID-19 including proper mask-wearing when around anyone outside of your household, proper hand sanitation, avoiding large group get-togethers and all other protocols that will keep our school and community safe,” Carpenter said.
Richard said the district uses a 48-hour window in contact-tracing individuals with whom a positive person may have come in contact over two days at the schools.
Should a child or staffer develop symptoms of COVID-19, they are asked to contact their medical provider. If a positive case is identified, families and staff should tell the school nurse.
Richard said most of the high school population keeps their Google Chromebook computers with them at all times, and the bulk went home on Monday.
The district will continue to provide meals to any students who want them.
“Co-curricular and athletics will continue to meet unless your coach or advisor inform you differently,” wrote Carpenter. “Again we want to urge all families to help us by following all the state and federal guidelines regarding the spread of COVID-19 so that we can finish the last quarter of the school year with as little disruption to our students as possible.”
One active case was determined at Kennett Middle School on Tuesday leading to 30 people needing to quarantine.
The last reported cases at the five other schools in the SAU were: Jan. 19 at Josiah Bartlett Elementary School in Bartlett; Feb. 5 for the Jackson Grammar in Jackson; March 11 for Pine Tree Elementary School in Center Conway; March 16 for Conway Elementary School; and March 22 for the John H. Fuller School in North Conway.
Staff from SAU 9, which includes Kennett High, Kennett Middle, Conway Elementary, Pine Tree and John Fuller, all in Conway, along with Josiah Bartlett and Jackson Grammar (along with from Robert Frost Charter School and Northeast Woodland Chartered Public School, at the invitation of SAU 9), received the first dose of the vaccine on March 27 at Kennett High.
District staff are scheduled to get their second round of the Moderna vaccine on Saturday, April 24, at KHS.
“The good news is that come May 8, all staff won’t have to isolate as they have been,” Richard said pointing to the date as being when the vaccine will have created immunity to the virus.