On Aug 3, Lewis County Health Officer Dr. Rachel Wood recommended that all public and private schools in Lewis County offer distance only learning for the start of the 2020-21 school year. On Monday, she gave the County Commissioners more information about her recommendation.
“This could be a very trying time and it could be a yo-yo situation where we start with remote learning and then we go back to school and then we have to close. Until we are able to get the number of cases to go down — we don’t have treatments or vaccines yet — I would like to take it a month at a time and see what is happening with the statistics,” said Wood regarding the reopening of schools.
Wood said that although moving to a full distance learning model for students in the fall was her recommendation, it is up to school districts to make the final decision and the Lewis County Health Department is working closely with superintendents at Lewis County school districts.
“We are working very closely with the schools and we are working to prepare for if someone tests positive if a school does choose to be in person. It’s not ‘if’ somebody tests positive it’s ‘when’,” she said.
Wood noted that community transmission impacts not only schools but businesses, families, the community and the economy. She said that her recommendation regarding schools was not an easy one.
“The feeling that we don’t have control is difficult for all of us and I appreciate the efforts that everyone is making to help decrease transmission of the COVID-19 virus within the community. Every single person in the community can play a role in decreasing the transmission,” she said.
Wood cited the importance of following the directions about social distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick and not getting large groups of people together within 6 feet of each other.
“We have to work together. The virus is the enemy and working together is of paramount importance,” said Wood.
Commissioner Edna Fund said she was asked by a constituent why schools had to be closed but daycares could open.
Wood said that daycares will operate mostly as they did in March, which is to prioritize providing childcare for first responders. J.P. Anderson, director of Lewis County Public Health & Social Services (LCPHSS) also pointed out that daycares operate on a smaller scale than school districts.
“One thing I have to say that I had not realized was how much schools provide other than childcare. They obviously provide education but all of the social services that kids are not going to be getting with remote learning,” Wood said.
Anderson said LCPHSS is working with schools to bridge those gaps in the social and emotional experiences that are a part of going to school.