Solon City School District Superintendent Fred Bolden reported at Monday’s Board of Education meeting that COVID-19 cases spiked significantly following Halloween.

“We experienced the highest number of confirmed positive cases in a week so far this year,” Mr. Bolden said. “This was not unexpected, and the majority of cases were reported among our students in grades Pre-K to 6, who remain unvaccinated at this time.”

For the week of Nov. 8, a total of 32 students were reported having COVID-19 and five staff members. As of Monday, 10 additional student cases were reported one more staff member.

“That represents the highest number we have had since the beginning of the pandemic,” Mr. Bolden said.

He said this is not necessarily a school-born cause. There were lots of Halloween gatherings and social events indoors, he noted. Also, “pandemic fatigue” is another factor, which leads to more interaction with people, Mr. Bolden said.

“This higher number of cases is a direct reflection of the greater community around us as COVID-19 in the 44139 area tripled last week as well,” Mr. Bolden said. That tally came to about 80 cases with 90 being the highest since the pandemic began. “The confirmed cases in our district are overwhelmingly occurring in our student population that is just beginning to be vaccinated, so we will be continuing with our current indoor masking requirements at all schools.”

At the same time, the district is planning ahead and formulating modifications to its current COVID-19 protocols for when all of the families with students ages 5 and over have had the opportunity to pursue the vaccine for their children if they wish, Mr. Bolden said.

Details surrounding a vaccine clinic are still developing. Communications Director Tamara Strom said the district is working with its health provider to line up a location.

This is similar to the vaccine clinic it presented in the spring for those 12 years of age and over, Mr. Bolden explained.

Mr. Bolden said this is an offsite clinic like before, with no vaccines being done in school buildings. The clinic would be for parents who want their children to receive a vaccine.

“That’s their choice,” Mr. Bolden said.

He continued that, in the best interest of students, families and the greater Solon/Glenwillow community, the district will maintain its current masking protocols through the winter holidays.

“Our experience shows that positive case counts are notably higher following the holidays,” he said. “Our goal is to re-assess circumstances in the two weeks following winter break and plan for a switch to masks being strongly recommended, but not required, for all K-12 students.”

Mr. Bolden said some schools in the area recently have been easing masking requirements only to have to reinstate them or even close a school building to stem a surge in cases.

“We believe consistency is important and that allowing time for families who choose to get their now-eligible younger students fully vaccinated will enable us to meet the mid-January goal,” Mr. Bolden said. “We will continue to monitor conditions and communicate weekly, or more often, if necessary, with our families as we make progress toward this milestone.”

“Our goal is trying to provide a safe environment for our kids,” he noted.

The district already has implemented the state Mask to Stay exclusion/quarantine protocol, allowing students and staff directly exposed in a school setting to continue attending provided they wear a mask for 14 days. They have also lifted the capacity limits for indoor events, such as concerts, drama productions and athletic contests.

“We did so with the important intent of keeping students in school and learning in the classroom and enabling more family members and friends to watch our students perform and compete in person,” Mr. Bolden said.

“The health and well-being of our students, their families, our staff and the community at large is always a major consideration,” he added. “Each decision regarding our COVID-19 response has been made by balancing the mitigation tools available to us with the need to maximize our students’ in-person learning and participation in extra-curricular activities.

“This next phase of our decision making, which includes a major planned shift in our mask requirements, will be undertaken in the same way,” Mr. Bolden said.

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