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Superintendent's Weekly Update

August 23, 2021 -- Dear VHCS family,

Beginning today and moving forward, I will send out the weekly letter and update the data dashboard each Monday. For August 16-20, 104 students (1.47% of in-person enrollment) were at home because of a reported COVID-19 positive diagnosis and 258 students (3.65%) were at home because of a known close contact exposure. The running total since August 10 counts students only one time. The weekly absences include students who may have been absent both weeks and includes students who are at home because of a close contact outside of school. One addition to the dashboard is the average daily percentage of COVID-19 related absences for the week (3.45%).

VHCS had 39 staff members absent (4.33%) for reasons related to COVID-19. As a support for our staff, the school system provides administrative leave days for employees who are absent for a COVID-19 related reason.

Originally, our health and wellness plan stated that public health would be doing contact tracing. Much like last year, that has not been possible. Our school nurses have been doing an outstanding job of identifying close contacts at school so that they can be sent home. Our school nurses are a valuable part of our team and we are fortunate to have these professionals committed to the healthcare needs of our students. While schools do not have the legal authority to quarantine a student in their home,  they can require that students not attend school if they have a known COVID-19 infection or were in close contact with someone who did. 

Based on a number of requests from parents, beginning Tuesday, we will be sending letters to parents of elementary students in classrooms where a student or adult has a known positive COVID-19 diagnosis. These letters will only be to make parents aware and to be alert for symptoms. The only students who will be required to miss school are those who are in close contact. In those cases, parents will be notified directly by the school.

Critical to the success of our health and wellness plan is the reminder to students, families, and VHCS staff to follow the 4Habits 4Health. We have posted new signage in our buildings that arrived late last week to promote 4Habits 4Health. Students and staff are to stay at home when they exhibit symptoms of illness. Students and staff who have even minor cold symptoms should stay home until they are symptom-free. Students and staff are strongly encouraged to wear face masks while indoors. Finally, we should all be vigilant in washing hands and using proper hygiene etiquette when coughing or sneezing. 

I want to express my appreciation to the many families who have given encouragement to our teachers, staff, and building administrators. The commitment and effort they are putting forth to make this school year a success for our students is outstanding. They are genuinely invested in the success of all of our children and deserving of the appreciation so many have shown. 

I will continue to use the weekly newsletter and my monthly reports to the Board of Education to address some of the questions that are being posed in correspondences sent to me. The next update will be Monday, August 30 unless there are changes to our plan during the week.

Todd Freeman, Ed.D.
Vestavia Hills City Schools