Superintendent Graden Says COVID-19 Data is Going in The Wrong Direction as District Considers Next Trimester

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There are no immediate changes expected to the Saline Area Schools "Return To Learn" plan, according to Superintendent Scot Graden.

Until the end of the trimester, the students whose families chose in-person learning will continue along the hybrid path, learning in-person twice a week and learning virtually the other three days. Most of the other students will continue full-time virtual learning.

Graden discussed instruction during an update at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday. School administration has been diving into the recently completed community survey and, according to Graden, there wasn't much movement from the original learning plans chosen by families. 

While there doesn't seem to be much change in what families are looking for, there may be changes in what the district can offer.

While the number of COVID-19 cases within the district declined to zero earlier this week (before a new case was identified at Saline High School Tuesday), most of the data the district has been watching is going the wrong way. Graden went over the data with the board. The goal, in order to have full-time, in-person learning, is to have zero COVID-19 cases in the school and zero people quarantine. The district went from having eight total positives last Monday to zero this Monday. Unfortunately, the number of students and staff in quarantine went from 26 to 41. 

Another metric the district monitors is the positive test rate in Washtenaw County. The district is aiming at a positive test rate of less than three percent. The county's test rate had increased from 3.5 to 4.3 percent, Graden said. On Wednesday, COVIDactnow.org pegged the Washtenaw rate at 5.3 percent and the state rate at 11.1 percent.

The district also monitors the cases per hundred thousand residents data and is looking for 10 or fewer. Instead, that number increased from 23.5 to 28.8.

Beyond data, the district also watches for compliance with social distancing and facial covering guidelines.

Overall, Graden said, the district was seeing compliance. However, he said, there are times when some social distancing guidelines aren't possible.

"There are times when we cannot fully social distance, 100 percent. I don't want to sit here and suggest we are," Graden said. "But generally, we are seeing compliance. We are not seeing resistance."

What does it all mean? The district is planning for the next trimester, which begins after Thanksgiving. Previously, Graden has said the district would have one more look assessment of the data before deciding what to do for December.

Graden pointed to the rising data, to the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays, to colder weather and more people spending more time indoors.

"It's hard to anticipate exactly what is going to happen," Graden said.

He noted that people anticipated the spread of COVID-19 after Labour Day, and it didn't materialize.

"It's important for us to stand diligent and continue to monitor without maybe jumping to conclusions," Graden said.

Graden said the district's COVID-19 team meets Friday to discuss plans. There's also a countywide superintendents meeting this week and a meeting between school officials and health department officials planned for this week.

"Friday is a big day to see where things are in Washtenaw County," Graden said.

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