Saline Area Schools District Aims at In-Person Learning Monday, Some Classes May Be Remote

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With the omicron variant driving the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to the highest levels yet in Washtenaw County, Saline Area Schools leadership is planning on returning from the holiday break to in-person instruction in all of the district's buildings.

Superintendent Steve Laatsch announced the district's plans in an email sent Saturday evening.

"We continue to stay focused on keeping our students in-person and will start on Monday with this model of instruction. With that said, we must be cautious about maintaining in-person learning. Diligence in mask-wearing, spacing (to the best of our ability), hand washing, cleaning, quarantining, and ventilation will continue," Laatsch wrote. "For some of our classes which we have not been able to secure substitutes for, they may need to go virtual to start the upcoming school week. You will be contacted directly by your child’s teachers and/or building administrator if your child is impacted by a move to virtual instruction and learning."

Laatsch said the district will assess the situation throughout the week.

Laatsch urged parents to monitor their children's health and to keep children home and contact medical providers if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, a cold or allergies. Laatsch also urged parents to keep their children home if they are waiting on SARS-CoV-2 test results or if they've been exposed to anyone who has COVID-19, until test results are available.

"This is a critical time coming off winter break. We are aware that a lot of travel, family gatherings, and group events took place. This doesn’t mean we can’t continue with the safe operation of our district, but it will only happen with a great deal of cooperation from the community," Laatsch wrote.

In addition, district administrators are discussing whether or not to go forward with sporting events and other large events with spectators after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services advised districts to reconsider events that could contribute to the spread of the virus. For now, the district is planning to move forward with events, Laatsch wrote, but he urged spectators to strictly adhere to masking requirements.

"Cooperation at our sporting events with the mask requirement has been spotty, at best! Moving forward, we ask for your help in adhering to the masking requirement. We want to continue to allow spectators and audiences at events but do not want to contribute to the spread that may prevent in-person learning," Laatsch wrote.

MDHHS data showed 17,896 positive tests in Washtenaw County on Dec. 28 - nearly 4,000 more than the previous high, set Dec. 2.

The positive test rate on Dec. 28 was 28.37 percent - the highest positive test rate since testing capabilities ramped up in April of 2020.

People infected with the omicron variant are known to generally have milder symptoms than they did with previous variants of COVID-19. Since the variant spreads so much quicker and easier, it's not yet clear if the milder symptoms will mean fewer patients will end up in ICU wards.

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