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Dorchester County Public Schools

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Superintendent's Press Release

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An Open Letter to the Dorchester County Public Schools Community- 1-6-2021

6 January 2021

An Open Letter to the Dorchester County Public Schools Community

Dear Dorchester County Public Schools Community,

As I announced during the break, we planned on returning January 5, 2021 in small group instruction as before the break. My daily conversations with Dorchester County Health Department Officer Roger Harrell continued over the holiday break, when the Executive Team and I waited anxiously for his daily reports. Each day, Dorchester County’s COVID case figures continued to remain somewhat steady, giving us significant but very cautious optimism for returning in January with an increased student population in our schools. That cautious optimism began to unravel on December 30, 2020 as our positivity rate jumped exponentially to numbers we had not yet seen. Each day Dorchester County has risen to as high as 9.8% positivity rate and 51.5 per 100 thousand case rate.

While I have stressed that Dorchester County Public Schools does NOT just go by those metrics (positivity rate and case rate), a significant change also occurred in other matrix evaluation numbers. In the days following December 30, 2020, 15 DCPS students of varying grade levels tested positive for COVID 19. These students would have affected 7 of our 13 schools. This was a considerable shift from previous weeks as we had little to no student and staff infections and had been operating OVER the recommended positivity rate number of 5% and case rate of over 15 per 100k quite successfully. We had been so successful, that several days prior to the break, over 500 students were present in their home school. What is so disturbing and outright scary with the 15 DCPS students who were diagnosed with COVID 19 was that there had not been an outbreak like this among students since the pandemic began in March and this occurred in a five-day span while the students were NOT in school. My concern immediately after hearing about our students was that we could NOT create a “super spreader” event by bringing our students back to school in small groups. Dorchester County Health Officer Roger Harrell agreed with my assessments which is what accelerated our Sunday statement to return to Phase I. Since then, the number of active COVID cases in Dorchester County has nearly doubled with the tragic number of deaths increasing during the last nine-day span.

I will continue to consult with Mr. Harrell each day regarding all COVID metrics that he uses for his recommendation to me on staff and students returning to school. While he does not take any number for granted, testing positivity rate is always a key to his recommendation. He uses up to eight different metrics to determine his recommendation for staff and students returning to school, including local hospital capacity which is already under pressure. As of today, Dorchester County has a 9.8% positivity rate causing us very real concerns for DCPS students and staff.

In reviewing our chart below and our increasing numbers from New Year’s testing, we will be remaining in Phase I through next week. As term II is coming to a close, I encourage parents and students to contact your teachers, guidance counselor or school administration to assist you with any concern you may have. Remember, ALL your grades count towards passing a class and being promoted for the school year.

I will continue to do our Wednesday statements at 3 pm, when I will announce a decision as to which instructional model will be implemented on the following Tuesday, based on the prior seven days of health metrics. I know having the most up to date information for parent planning is paramount, but as I have said many times to date: COVID-19 does NOT care about how schools or parents plan.

I want everyone to remain safe while staying vigilant with your COVID-19 safety guidelines. Stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay hopeful that we can proceed further into small group, Phase 1.5 or Phase II of our reopening plan as soon as safely possible.

W. David Bromwell

Superintendent

Dorchester County Public Schools

DATE           Positivity Rate  Case Rate
12/30/2020                         6.10%         23.7
12/312020 6.90%       21.00
1/01/2021 7.40% 34.50
1/02/2021 7.70% 36.20
1/03/2021 8.40% 39.80
1/04/2021 9.30% 45.20
1/05/2021 9.40% 51.50
1/06/2021 9.80% 48.8