BY JEFF JAMES
Like many of you, I hoped that 2022 would see an end COVID-19, and all of its variants would be subsiding. That has not happened, and just last week the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services reported a single-day record for new cases. The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education voted in December 2021 to require masks when students return to class on Wednesday, January 5. Of course, this requirement will be reviewed at the January 10 board meeting.
Iredell-Statesville Schools was able to end the 2020-2021 school year ahead of all other districts in academic performance. In addition, the district had its highest value-add score of seventh in the state. All of this speaks to the dedication of our system to providing an outstanding academic environment. In addition, U.S. News & World Report recognized six district elementary schools and two middle schools as top schools in the United States.
The staff and leadership attribute this to dedicated employees and the fact we were one of the first to come back with face-to-face learning. The data is clear; virtual instruction cannot replace face-to-face interaction among peers and teachers in the learning environment.
The past two years have left all of us tired and ready for change. We have seen across the nation, state, and locally the departure of the school staff. Many long-time employees chose to retire early. I-SS has the most significant vacancies of any year on record.
I think we all can agree that we want our kids safe and in school consistently. The NCDHHS did adjust the exclusion as noted here:
NCDHHS has also adopted updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which outlines what individuals should do if they contract or are exposed to COVID-19 to help slow the spread to others:
● If you have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status – get tested and isolate from others while you wait for a result.
● If you are not able to be tested, follow the guidance below as if you are positive.
● If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are not vaccinated, stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.
● If you are vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but not yet been boosted – stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.
● If vaccinated and have either received your booster or are not yet eligible for a booster – you do not need to stay away from others, but you should wear a mask for 10 days.
● If you test positive, regardless of vaccination status, and do not have symptoms – isolate yourself from others for 5 days, then wear a mask for 5 additional days when you return to normal activities.
● If you have symptoms – isolate yourself from others until you are fever-free and your symptoms are improving. You should isolate yourself for at least 5 days since your symptoms began. Once you stop isolating, you should wear a mask for 5 additional days.
We are eager to begin 2022 with our students on campus. One thing continues to guide our decisions, and that is our desire to serve students in a face-to-face setting. We appreciate your patience as we work to keep our students and staff safe and serve the children of Iredell County.
Dr. Jeff James is superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools.