Friday, September 17, 2021

Pottstown Shifts 7th Grade to Virtual, Now Requiring Vaccinations or Twice Weekly Testing for Staff


Pottstown Middle School's entire seventh grade will move to virtual learning for the next two weeks starting on Friday, Sept. 17 the district announced Thursday evening.

An announcement posted on the district Facebook page noted that "7th grade students may not participate in co-curricular activities, before or after school during this time."

John Armato, the district's director of community relations, confirmed "we had a number of students who tested positive for COVID-19 and were found, as a result of contact tracing, to have come in contact with other students."

"Anyone who has had potential close contact exposure will have communication from the school. If you do not receive any direct communication from school personnel, then the only action you should take is to continue to watch for the symptoms sent home previously," the announcement indicated.

During Thursday night's school board meeting, Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez told the board "this is not a decision we made fast or a decision we made without counsel. We are doing our very best to mitigate all these issues. but please stop yelling at our nurses, they don't deserve it."

The announcement, reinforced by comments from Rodriguez, pleaded with parents to keep sick students home. 

"If your child is being tested for COVID-19, exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or is positive for COVID-19 but not exhibiting symptoms, your child must stay home. Please rest assured that safety is our top priority but we will do all we can to safeguard in-person instruction five days per week," the announcement read.

"We had some kids sent to school with just symptom, maybe it was a headache, or abdominal pain or diarrhea. All of these kids were sent home and then tested, and maybe parents people thought that would get them back to school quickly, but every single one of them tested positive," said Rodriguez.

Anyone interested in breakfast or lunch while their student is in quarantine may click here to sign up: https://docs.google.com/.../1FAIpQLSf8AVTaA3znFh.../viewform

The board took further steps Thursday to try to keep schools open.

With one member missing, they voted unanimously to amend the district's COVID health and safety plan to require that all staff members be vaccinated, or show proof of vaccinations.

Those who can't, or won't, will be required to get tested twice per week, Rodriguez explained.

"If they refuse (to show proof of vaccination), they'll be assumed to be unvaccinated, and if they refuse to be tested, they will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination," Rodriguez said.

"I believe certainly this is about safety. It certainly isn't about politics. It is about making sure that we as a staff are doing all that we can. And I will tell you that it is my belief that with the option to test twice a week, that our staff will be very accepting of this," Rodriguez said.

"We have taken a strong stance, from the beginning, of doing all we can to help our students, our parents and our community as it relates to safety as well as education," Rodriguez said.

"We are not forcing anything on anyone's individual rights. But we have to watch out for the safety of all," said Board Vice President Katina Bearden.

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