In a letter last week, Oak Ridge Schools officials asked people to wear masks, maintain physical distances from people who live outside their home, and wash their hands.
There has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases among students and staff members in Oak Ridge Schools. The surge began after fall break, although it’s not clear if the two events are connected.
On Monday, the school system returned middle school students to alternating schedules as the number of students who have to be quarantined increases. High school students remain on the alternating schedules, and elementary and preschool students continue with classes five days per week.
In their letter, school officials said they were asking the community to do what the students and teachers are doing to stay healthy in order to maintain and increase educational and extracurricular activities.
“Wear your mask, social distance, wash your hands, and understand that activities you participate in outside of the school day can easily jeopardize our ability to continue in-person education,” the letter said.
“It goes without saying that all of our lives have been impacted in some way by COVID-19,” the letter said. “From the day school life was suspended last March, we began preparing for what school would be like, when and if we did reopen. Opening day was not perfect, but as time went on, with the dedication of our administrators and staff, we have been able to give our students a virtual or in-person learning situation. There have been peaks and valleys along the way, but our students are adapting to the unfortunate restrictions on learning. We all know that nothing is better for our students than having face-to-face opportunities with our teachers.”
The letter said that poor decision-making has needlessly exposed students and staff, and led to a recent rise in cases and quarantines.
“It is essential that those who have children keep their students at home in the following circumstances,” the letter said:
- if a person in the household has been exposed to a person confirmed to have COVID-19;
- if the student or household member is awaiting COVID-19 test results;
- if the student has a fever or flu-like symptoms; or
- if the student has been confirmed to have COVID-19
The letter was written by the Oak Ridge Schools superintendent, executive directors, and Oak Ridge Board of Education.
School officials said the district has followed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anderson County Health Department, and the Tennessee Department of Health.
“Our school community has risen to the challenge and have been examples of what needs to be done while in school,” the letter said. “Our Maintenance Department has led the way in maintaining healthy and safe conditions in our schools.”
The officials said they understand that extracurricular sports and activities are important to students, but it important that parents permit only those activities where proper precautions are taken.
“Please help us to help our children and help our community,” the letter said.
The letter was from Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers; Board of Education Chair Keys Fillauer; Board of Education Vice Chair Laura McLean; school board members Angi Agle, Ben Stephens, and Erin Webb; Executive Director of School Leadership Bruce Lay; Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Kelly Williams; and Career Readiness/Communication Supervisor Holly Cross.