Robbins discusses strategy of DCPS going remote, not changing mask policy

January 19, 2022 | 12:11 am

Updated January 18, 2022 | 11:25 pm

Matt Robbins

In a matter of about two hours early Tuesday afternoon, Daviess County Public Schools district officials went from expecting to return to the classroom to keeping doors closed for at least one more day. That’s how quickly the number of unavailable staff members racked up due to isolations and quarantines, despite officials’ hopes of the number dropping instead.

Superintendent Matt Robbins said DCPS schools were closed Tuesday simply based on the number of staff impacted by COVID-19. Robbins said they were strategic in using a single remote learning day, hoping that a four-day weekend would allow enough staff members to return to work by Wednesday while also limiting exposure for an extra day.

So, shortly after noon Tuesday and following a Board of Education luncheon, Robbins said “as of right now, we’ll be in school tomorrow. I don’t have any reason at this point to say that we will not be in the school, regular session tomorrow.”

By 2:30 p.m., that was no longer the case. The final indications on staff availability led to DCPS announcing that buildings would be closed again Wednesday and the district would instead utilize their third day of [email protected] (Information was shared with parents/families and links to online assignments are posted here.

A final count on staff availability was not provided, though Robbins noted after the luncheon that he knew they were having difficulty with transportation. 

While he’s hopeful cases will peak shortly, he said district officials “anticipate at least an additional week beyond this week of just really high cases. … I think we’re a subset of what’s going on in the real world. It doesn’t matter where you go, you’re seeing some disruption with services, and that’s because employees (are out).”

Robbins noted that the CDC’s recent announcement that they now recommend 5 days for isolation and quarantine (if asymptomatic) rather than 10 has been a major help.

“Honestly, with the number of cases and the number of quarantines, there’s no way we could be operational right now if we were still dealing with 10 days,” he said. “You still have some that go longer than that, but it affords us greater options to get people back into the workforce much quicker.”

Robbins said that’s a big factor in how the district is trying to be strategic with using remote learning days. He said if cases are still high, they could opt for [email protected] or NTI on a Friday and/or Monday to again try to provide a longer time to isolate and quarantine. 

“An NTI day that’s structured with several in-person days can be highly effective,” Robbins said. “I think it’s smart for us to be strategic. We don’t believe long-term NTI — being a week or more — is really effective and it’s detrimental to students. There’s a lot of balancing acts that go in here. But where you can extend a weekend in the midst of lots and lots of cases and lots and lots of disruption … it’s a strategic, smart play for us right now. We’ll keep that in play moving forward, just depending on what the environment looks like for us.”

No change in mask policy

Robbins said based on the CDC’s updated guidance published Friday about N95 masks providing “the highest level of protection from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19,” the district has procured N95 masks for staff who wish to wear those. 

“I’ve made a plea to our leadership teams throughout the system to model the way with that, but to wear the right type of mask and wear it in the right way,” Robbins said. “From reading what other doctors say and what the CDC has to say … wearing the right type of mask and wearing it in the right way, that’s the only way you ensure that you’re getting any level of protection right now.” 

But, he said there is no requirement among staff or students to wear a mask.

“We’re not changing our stance on that,” he said. “I think people have the opportunity to read, study, and learn about at the individual level what they need to do to best protect themselves. I think what we’re really starting to see is less people in a leadership position, directing people on what they should do, and more than they need to be self directed.”

Still, Robbins encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

“It remains supreme in its protection to people from severe illness, hospitalization, as well as more adverse outcomes,” he said. “That that would continue to be the message that we’d want to give — let’s encourage everyone to get vaccinated and to get the booster dose that goes with that, because everything else that we have is just very, very minor in what it could do in comparison to vaccinations.”

January 19, 2022 | 12:11 am

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