I want to begin by thanking you for your continued engagement and support. The first few weeks of re-opening were a huge success. Students and staff were happy to be back on site, and all were successfully adhering to new protocols for health and safety. We are truly thankful for all of our students, staff, teachers, and parents for being so willing to adapt and especially to our teachers and staff who made sacrifices to ensure that the transition back to school could be the success that it was.
Community Outbreak Updates
Schools in our County have not been the source of community outbreaks of COVID, and this is why, even despite the increased trends of COVID in our community, we feel safe re-opening our school with approved protocols for hand hygiene, masking, physical distancing, and sanitation.
Transitioning from Classroom Learning to Distance Learning
We have had to make a difficult decision to transition several of our classrooms to Distance Learning as of today; we made the decision to transition only the classrooms that were impacted rather than transitioning our entire school. We recognize that the disruption to learning is not ideal for students and families who have been impacted, however, we made these decisions with the intent to disrupt the fewest number of students and families as possible.
Continuing to Stay Open
Despite best laid plans, COVID continues to require us to move on our toes, and unfortunately, as is the case with other school districts in the County, the following issues have tremendously impacted our ability to provide the educational programs at Bridges in ways that we have planned.
Challenges we Face
1) The pool of substitute teachers willing to teach in the in-person program is woefully inadequate. In recent days, the pool has dwindled to only one or two substitutes that are either not already assigned or willing to teach in-person.
2) We currently have 4 teachers or staff in quarantine due to close contact with COVID or because they are COVID positive. With the lack of substitutes available, we do not have the capacity to sustain in-person learning for all classrooms if a teacher is required to quarantine.
3) We usually have a large substitute pool with a handful who are committed to Bridges. However, to ensure we have enough coverage at the start of school, during recess, and for dismissal, we had to use some of the substitutes to serve as aides to assist with cleaning, recess monitoring, temperature taking, and various other duties to ensure protocols are being followed.
4) Custodial positions are extremely difficult to fill at the moment as all schools have an increased need. As we have had a need to quarantine our custodians, we have been pressed to quickly find alternative options for cleaning that has put our re-opening plans at risk.
Middle School Re-Opening Update
It is our shared priority to provide classroom based learning for middle school students who want to be back in the classroom with their teachers. Our school is waivered for re-opening. Waivers can only be obtained for elementary schools, not middle or high schools. Some local middle and high schools may be able to re-open if they were already open before the county transitioned to the purple tier. Our January 19th planned re-opening date will need to be adjusted. Once COVID cases are more manageable in our county and we return to the red tier, we will enact our plans for re-opening classroom based learning for our middle school students.
These are just a handful of the challenges we have been working hard to overcome, and yet the COVID-19 surge has overwhelmed capacity for many local schools.
I want to be clear in saying the transitions we are navigating are not a reflection of poor planning or preparation, but rather, the result of the sheer volume of COVID-19 cases and mandatory quarantining that has critically impacted everyone in the County.
Please feel free to reach out to us should you have any questions or concerns. I can assure you that our teachers and staff are working diligently to overcome the many short-term challenges that we continue to face.
In partnership, and with great appreciation,