Tag Archives: Schools

Fairfield-Suisun School District discloses over 60 COVID cases on public dashboard

Fairfield-Suisun district reports Covid-19 cases, launches online dashboard

Fairfield Daily Reporter, by Susan Hiland, September 13, 2021
FAIRFIELD — The 2021-2022 academic year has only just begun but already the Fairfield-Suisun School District has dozens of reported Covid-19 cases.

Nancy Dunn, president of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association, reported Thursday that 50 students and staff had called into the district’s schools reporting positive test results for Covid-19.

Dunn made her report Thursday night during the school board meeting.

She said the numbers reflected 16 in-person instructional days with an average of a little more than three notices per day. Those numbers had increased by Saturday to 52 students and 11 staff members.

Jaden Baird

Those numbers are updated on the district’s new Covid-19 dashboard, which was created to keep track of reported cases of the disease. The dashboard went live Sept. 3, according to Jaden Baird, executive director of Administrative Services and Community Engagement.

It is easily available for anyone to view on the district’s website.

The dashboard is updated as soon as the information is added to the system. The district has two staff members working on the updates, including one for students and one for staff.

A disclaimer on the dashboard reads:

“The statistics displayed on this dashboard for students are, for the majority, self-reported cases. We are relying on our parent community to notify us as to whether or not a student is positive for Covid. There have been a few cases in which a student has come to school symptomatic and were tested immediately and found to be positive. Even in these few circumstances, due to staff and students following our protocols, no transmission at school occurred. Once a parent notifies us of a positive case, contact tracing begins and all close contacts are notified.”

Dunn said it is a difficult time for teachers and students who want to feel safe while attending school. She said the dashboard is a positive because it makes the information readily available to parents, staff and to the community.

“These numbers are in spite of masks indoors and vaccinations,” she said.

Dunn also reported that not a lot of reports of mask violations have been made but those that were reported were swiftly dealt with.

“Because of the quick action of staff, I believe it has kept the numbers from being higher,” she said.

Dunn said staff are concerned about the expiration Sept. 30 of the Covid Leave Act. Employees currently are eligible for 10 days of Covid leave with pay.

Many staff members don’t have personal leave because they haven’t been in the district long enough to have paid leave, Dunn said. She said some teachers are already stretched to make it to the end of the month. She said if this is not renegotiated, it could mean a lot of financial hardship for teachers who contract the disease.

Kris Corey

“So far student cases have all been reported from parents and none of those cases was from exposure within the school,” Superintendent Kris Corey said. “It is parents calling in saying the child is positive. We don’t ask for a note from the doctor for the students but take them at their word.”

Corey spoke Thursday about contact tracing, which is required for anyone who reports being positive for Covid-19. She said it is “a monstrosity.” It takes many hours to determine close contacts and who needs to be notified, and who has been vaccinated or not, she said.

“It takes a lot of time to do the contract tracing,” Corey said. “It is different for teachers than students.”

It’s different for employees because they need a doctor’s note. The district then goes through a different process with them.

Students or staff who are vaccinated or who want to remain on modified quarantine and continue to come to work or school need to be tested for Covid-19 during that time period, she said.

“It takes a lot of time during the day to test students, so we are working (on) refining process and working on testing outside of the school day,” Corey said. “They will need to come at those times to be tested.”

Corey asked for volunteers to assist with the testing. They will be compensated for their time, she said.

To volunteer, call the school district at 399-5000. The district’s Covid-19 dashboard is available at https://www.fsusd.org/domain/5080.

Screenshot of FSUSD COVID-19 Dashboard, 7:30pm, Sept 13, 2021

Almost 72,000 children and teens caught Covid-19 last week – five times as many kids who were sick at the end of June

Covid-19 cases among US children and teens jumped 84% in a week, pediatrician group says

CNN, by Jen Christensen and Theresa Waldrop, August 4, 2021

Almost 72,000 children and teens caught Covid-19 last week – a “substantial” increase from a week earlier, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday.

The group counted 71,726 new cases from July 22 – 29. That is a “substantial” increase from the nearly 39,000 cases reported a week before, and five times as many kids who were sick at the end of June. The definition of a child varies by state but generally includes those up to age 17 or 18.

After decreases in reported cases over the past couple of months, the July numbers started trending upward again as the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus became dominant in the country.

“That’s high and considering the fact that we are vaccinated now, what that’s telling us is that unvaccinated people are getting infected in higher numbers because the virus is more infectious with the Delta variant,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chief of the division of infectious diseases in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford Medicine and chair of the AAP committee on infectious diseases.

More than 4.2 million kids have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Children and teens represented 19% of reported cases in the latest weekly data.

The report comes as schools have just started or will soon start, with some requiring no masks or social distancing, and as cases in many parts of the country are surging and hospitalizations at levels not seen in months.

At one Georgia school, more than 100 students were in quarantine after nine students and five staff members tested positive for Covid-19 just days after the first day back.

Children under 12 years old are not eligible for any of the three vaccines currently used in the United States, and the fast-spreading Delta variant has put them especially at risk, health experts say.

Vaccines are being tested now in children as young as 6 months, but they probably won’t be available for children younger than 12 for several more months.

Dr. Trey Dunbar, president of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, agrees, saying that children are being victimized by a pandemic that has a simple solution: adult vaccination.

“Covid is a preventable disease,” he said. “It’s hard for us as pediatricians to see kids affected by a preventable disease. Children aren’t like adults. They don’t have the choice to get vaccinated. Parents are responsible for those choices. So yes, it makes a big difference when adults make decisions for kids and adults make decisions that could maybe prevent diseases that we see in children.”

Leaders around the country are taking various approaches to keep children safe, from Utah Gov. Spencer Cox saying the state will give away KN-95 masks to children, to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson calling on the state’s legislature to amend a law in order to give school districts the flexibility to require masks.

The academy, which represents pediatricians, pointed out that severe illness still appears to be rare among children. The number of hospitalizations has remained steady through much of the pandemic. Children accounted for 1.3%-3.5% of the hospitalizations, depending on the state.

Seven states have reported no child deaths from Covid-19 during the pandemic. As of Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 526 deaths among children ages 0-17.

Among the some 25 million US children between 12 and 17 years old, about 10.9 million have been vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccine, according to CDC data.

CNN’s Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.

Benicia School District responds to tough questions about clean air controls during the pandemic

How good are the Benicia Schools’ HVAC Systems?

By Roger Straw, March 16, 2021

On February 26, a Benicia resident asked an intriguing question on Nextdoor:

How good are the Benicia Schools HVAC systems? Before we expel school board members and chop up the teachers union, how up – to date & how well maintained our our school’s hvac systems?  If it costs approx $300,000 to recall a board member can we put that money into upgrading the schools’ hvac systems and hiring more janitors instead?

The Nextdoor question had obvious political implications, with which, incidentally, I agree wholeheartedly.  Our school infrastructure, supplies and services for teachers and students are so important.  The recent effort to attack and unseat two BUSD trustees is ridiculously expensive ($300,000!) and the recall is also misguided in intent, targeting two fine Trustees, including the School Board President.  EVERYONE please DO NOT SIGN THE RECALL PETITION!

But… what stood out to me was the opening question, “How good are the Benicia Schools HVAC systems?”

I wondered if anyone has a good answer to that question.  A little research uncovered that Benicia’s 2014 Ballot Measure S included significant provisions for upgrading the District’s HVAC systems.

So I dug around and found that I could write to Roxanne Egan, the Bond Director for Benicia Unified School District.

I emailed Ms. Egan some tough questions, and got a thorough response.  Here is my opening contextual statement and my four questions:

Given the pandemic guidelines’ strong call for good ventilation and heating/AC in schools before returning to in-person learning, I would like to know some details:

      1. What has been done to improve BUSD HVAC systems since passage of Measure S in 2014?
      2. What improvements have been made to BUSD HVAC systems in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
      3. Has the BUSD received specific federal and state guidance on HVAC recommendations and requirements in order to provide safe space as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and if so, what are those recommendations and requirements?
      4. In what particulars are BUSD schools up to HVAC standards proposed by the CDC and the CA Department of Health, and in what particulars are we still deficient?

Ms. Egan and directors of several other BUSD departments were thorough in gathering information that would address my questions.  I received a two-page letter from Ms. Egan and Alfredo Romero, Director of Maintenance and Operations on March 11.  After the opening thank you, Egan and Romero answered each question, beginning with the first:

What has been done to improve BUSD HVAC systems since passage of Measure S in 2014?

      • Measure S has funded HVAC improvements including the replacement of over 28 HVAC units, service and repairs to existing HVAC units, upgrades to HVAC economizers, which are the mechanical assembly that responds to the thermostat “demand” to allow fresh air intake. In addition to Measure S funding, BUSD received State Proposition 39 funding through the California Energy Commission for qualified energy improvements which included thermostat upgrades at all schools. The upgraded thermostats provide the ability to remotely access the thermostats including the ability to monitor fresh air intake and allow maintenance operators to increase and decrease the fresh air minimums based on ambient conditions. The minimums for fresh air intake are consistent with state building codes and during the COVID-19 pandemic, these minimums may be exceeded to introduce a larger amount of fresh air.
BUSD letter on HVAC improvements, March 11, 2021

The letter goes on like this.  I find it on the one hand reassuring, but on the other, rather general and couched in technical language that leaves me wondering.  I’m guessing the public might still have questions.  Please read the whole letter, and see if you agree.

READ THE LETTER from Roxanne Egan, Bond Director, and Alfredo Romero, Director of Maintenance and Operations, March 11, 2021.

Questions?

If not for the pandemic, parents and grandparents like me could all gather in a school auditorium and ask questions, or maybe even get a guided tour with HVAC examples.  I wonder if the District could convene a ZOOM meeting and interact with us on these and other in-person learning issues that concern us.

Benicia Mayor and Solano County Public Health Officer disagree whether teachers should get vaccine sooner

Benicia mayor asks Solano supervisors to move teachers to front of vaccination line

Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd R. Hansen, February 10, 2021
Benicia Mayor Steve Young

Benicia Mayor Steve Young asked the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to move teachers to the front of the vaccination line so schools can open quickly and safely.

“And the key, as I see it, and absolutely to do that, is being able to vaccinate each teacher and member of the (schools’) staff,” Young said.

Educators are scheduled as part of the first tier of Phase 1B, the same as residents who are 65 to 74, agriculture workers, as well as child care and adult care workers.

The county is currently working through the groups in the final tier of Phase 1A.

Dr. Bela Matyas, the county public health officer, said the next group of seniors need to be the top priority since 80% of the county’s Covid-related deaths are residents who are 65 or older.

“So if we want to make a dent in our fatalities, we have to focus on (residents) 65 and older,” Matyas said in a phone interview after the board meeting. He was not part of the meeting agenda.

Matyas said he was aware of the pressure being applied to get teachers vaccinated more quickly, but does not agree that politicizing the issue is the best way to make health decisions.

Young’s comments came during the public comment period of the board meeting, during which Michele Guerra also called on the board to open the schools.

She said students, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing, need to be back in the classrooms.

“Students are struggling with all this technology,” she said. “We need to get these schools open. Many of these students are falling behind.”

The board heard a similar message early in the pandemic from Superintendent of Schools Lisette Estrella-Henderson.

She told the board she was concerned with the potential effects of having schools closed on students with disabilities because of the reliance on distance learning and technology.

The schools closed to in-class instruction at the start of the pandemic in March. The vast majority remain closed, with children and teens receiving instruction online from their teachers….