By Mike McClure

With the Laurel School District switching from hybrid to virtual learning, Laurel Superintendent Dr. Larrimore updated the Laurel School Board on the district’s COVID-19 and quarantine rates during last Wednesday’s virtual meeting.

“We’re going to have setbacks with quarantines far before we have setbacks with active positive spread throughout the schools, in my opinion,” said Larrimore. “It’s not really about the positive COVID tests, because schools are safe. We’ve got the mitigation strategies, there’s social distancing, we’re wearing our masks, we’re very hygienic, however, when one positive kid or one positive staff member comes in it’s the spread of the quarantine that you’ve got to take into consideration.”

Larrimore reported that the North Laurel Early Learning Academy had a one percent positivity rate among school staff and students with a five percent quarantine rate. The rest of the district’s rates are as follows (as of last week): Laurel Elementary School, zero percent positivity rate, six percent quarantine rate; Laurel Middle School, one percent positivity rate, seven percent quarantine rate; and Laurel High School, one percent positivity rate, two percent quarantine rate.

Larrimore said the Delaware Department of Public Health traces who came into contact with someone who tested positive and determines who needs to be in quarantine.

Larrimore added that the amount of staff that is out or in quarantine affects schools’ ability to operate in person learning/hybrid.

North Laurel has a 17 percent reserve in teaching staff with 12 percent of teachers out last week. Other rates are as follows: Laurel Elementary 14 percent operational capacity and 14 percent out (three percent positive and 11 percent out/quarantine); Laurel Middle School 20 percent capacity, 25 percent out; and Laurel High School 10 percent capacity and four percent out.

“I believe our buildings are safe, however, when we do have a positive case it impacts us so negatively as to what we can do operationally,” Larrimore said.

“We’re kind of doing a roller coaster ride again but we all have our seatbelts on and we’re going to make the best of the ride,” Laurel Board Vice President Sabrina Taylor Isler said at the beginning of the meeting. “Everyone’s doing a great job, from what I hear, of pulling together and I greatly appreciate that.”

“I just want to encourage each and every one of you to keep your head up and work through this mess. It will soon pass,” said Laurel Board Member Shane McCarty.

Director of School Nutrition Julie Gibbons announced that the district is changing to meal bags and will provide five breakfasts and lunches that families can pick up one day a week.

During his report, Laurel High Principal David Hudson said there have been 665 active users (out of 671 students) of the Schoology Learning Management System. He also reported that the school’s band is the one in the state with a fully operational half-time show during varsity football games.

The next Laurel School Board meeting is scheduled to take place in-person on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at the middle-high school, but it may be switched to an online meeting in the future.