With confirmed cases of COVID-19 growing within the Escalon Unified School District, students won’t be returning to campus after the Thanksgiving break.
Off for the holiday from Nov. 23 through Nov. 27, the students will remain on distance learning from at least Monday, Nov. 30 through Wednesday, Dec. 2. They could return to classes on campus effective Thursday, Dec. 3 but school board members may opt to continue the distance learning model longer.
As of presstime for The Times on Monday, Nov. 23, there were two confirmed COVID-19 cases at El Portal Middle School and two confirmed cases at Escalon High School, as well as one confirmed case at Dent Elementary.
“In the event there is a positive case, affected individuals will be contacted directly by their school principals or staff and they will receive a letter that may include self-isolation directions and other important information,” the district wrote in information provided on the EUSD website’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The decision to go back to distance learning came as the result of an emergency meeting called on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 18. Reacting to a couple of confirmed COVID cases at that time, members of the Escalon Unified School District board voted to return all students to distance learning effective Thursday, Nov. 19. It was a fast decision; one district officials said was made in the best interest of students and staff. In making the decision, the district also cited the increase in cases across San Joaquin County in general, with cases up to roughly 19 reported daily per 100,000 people.
Since the abrupt return to distance learning on Nov. 19, additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the district. The five positive cases as of Nov. 23 have been confirmed within the last couple of weeks, said officials.
“School principals or school staff will communicate new cases directly to their school communities,” the district letter continued. “Please note that our District will only communicate and provide data for confirmed COVID-19 cases.”
Escalon High School has the highest number of students and staff in person on campus, at 646; followed by Dent Elementary at 538 and EL Portal Middle School at 524. While the number of COVID cases at these sites constitutes a very small minority, officials decided to err on the side of caution in returning all students to the at-home distance learning.
“This decision is not mandated, but it is supported by the San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, therefore allowing the District to determine when in person instruction can resume,” district officials said in a letter to parents outlining the distance learning decision.
District officials added that the school board will be meeting weekly to continue monitoring and reviewing the COVID data and guide the district accordingly.
Also as of Monday, Nov. 23, the San Joaquin County Public Health Department reported that countywide, hospital Intensive Care Units were at 110 percent capacity and that one COVID death had been reported over the weekend.