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Today: Schools superintendent to discuss COVID questions during Facebook live

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Aug 25, 2021

Dr. Ken Savage, Superintendent of Schools

A Facebook live presentation will be held by Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage today to share information about COVID protocols and answer questions.

Savage will hold the Facebook live event at noon, Wednesday, Aug. 25, which can either be watched live, or later on the District’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/schooldistrictofleecounty.

The topic was discussed during the School Board of Lee County’s Tuesday meeting.

Savage said the Delta variant of COVID has been very challenging for the district, as it has hit every aspect of the organization. He said the pandemic team continues to work and meet to modify and adjust protocols.

Chief Strategic Engagement Officer Lauren Stillwell said last year from August through December they had 10,000 FRI forms filled out. From Aug. 10 through Aug. 23 the district had almost 6,000 forms filled out.

The forms go from the school to the district to the Department of Health before going back to the school and the district office.

“It is incredibly overwhelming. We are overwhelmed. The district is overwhelmed. The process itself is pretty easy provided the information submitted is correct,” Stillwell said. “There are about 2,500 reports that we need to process here that haven’t made it to the DOH yet. We have staff coming in after hours right now working 12 to 16 hours to process it because we know it is a problem.”

She said they are working very closely with the Department of Health and currently went from six contact tracers to 11. Some of those contact tracers have been embedded into the COVID Hotline room to try and make the turnaround times what they should be.

There is a lag right now with quarantine, as both the health department and school district is overwhelmed. He said there have been some folks impacted negatively that are not able to help at the moment.

A huge issue for the district currently is staffing. Savage said there has been a whole slew of folks that have had to go to the schools to cover classes.

“A lot of folks in academic services have had to be flexible and be out there on the front lines. They have jumped right in and have done excellent work,” he said of such district staff as Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeff Spiro. “If the surge were to worsen there becomes a point where it is not as manageable. It’s a very challenging time out there right now.”

He went on to say that it is an unprecedented moment for the district and the level of sacrifice has been dramatic.

“It is so compelling to me to see people so dedicated to children to continue to put, sometimes, their fear aside. There are some folks that have to pick up additional classes. The level of sacrifices is so tremendous. Our staff out there is doing great work,” Savage told the board.

He said if they can manage to keep a school open that is the preferred method because it is vital to keep students in class and continue to provide education.

Savage said they have had virtual meetings with principals to allow them to ask questions and have them answered, typically in an hours time, with the last meeting running an hour and 45 minutes. In addition, he said he has been visiting schools, as a first-hand, boots on the ground, sense of what is taking place at the schools.

“It’s unique from school to school. We will continue to provide support,” Savage said.

The district continues to be in constant communication with healthcare providers, the Department of Health, as well as with the state, as COVID is ongoing. Savage said they are trying to keep abreast with what is happening and how to navigate the surge.

He said it’s all about delivering the best educational experience to students as possible while keeping safety paramount for both students and staff.

In addition to the Facebook stream, a DAC presentation will also be held to bring forth new adopted protocols this week. On Monday, a board workshop will be held, bringing the pandemic team together to help answer further questions.

There are many mitigation efforts still taking place in the schools. Savage said one of the most powerful mitigation efforts that have been shared across the health community is getting vaccinated. Substantially lower on the mitigation charts, Savage said are such things as masking and social distancing, according to health professionals. He said they are social distancing to the greatest extent possible in the classrooms.

Other efforts are seating charts to help contact tracing, hand sanitizer readily available, isolation rooms, high frequency cleaning as well as positive case trigger cleaning, playground disinfection at the end of the day, cleaning buses in the morning and afternoon and no visitors on campus.

Savage said they are also bringing back one-way hallways and grab-and-go breakfast and lunch.