Massac Unit 1 schools are on full-remote learning now through Dec. 4.

In-person classes are scheduled to resume Monday, Dec. 7.

Unit 1 Superintendent Jason Hayes posted the announcement Friday that the decision was based on “rising positive cases throughout the county and an extensive quarantine of students and staff.”

Student meals are available at each school for pick-up only. Parents should contact their child’s school or sign up online before 10 a.m. each day so meals can be prepared. No delivery is available.

Hayes met with school administrators Friday morning to review the district’s COVID data — how many cases, between students and staff, were in each school.

Initially, officials were going to keep Brookport and Unity elementary schools on full remote, which they have been since Nov. 9.

“Once COVID hit, it took off,” Hayes said. “It really hit Unity first, then slowly spread to Brookport, then exploded at Jefferson out of nowhere — about 26% of (Jefferson) students were out on quarantine and another 20 to 25% were out of fears from quarantine so they were out down to half their population; a couple of grades had no kids in the classroom.”

So with the decision to put those three on remote learning, Hayes thought Franklin and Metropolis elementary schools, Massac Junior High School and Massac County High School could remain open.

But as Friday progressed, “I started hearing about more positive tests. Friday, it started hitting the high school and junior high. The principals were trying to contact trace, and the quarantine number just kept going up — we reached about 150 or so. A lot of parents and staff were getting worried and keeping their kids home and choosing the remote option. Our list of in-person learning just kept going down. We’re also having more staff — staff members, teachers, teacher aids, bus drivers — out for positive tests or quarantines,” Hayes said.

By their meeting Friday afternoon, “we had to figure out when this not feasible. When do we pull the plug? You’re pulling your teachers both ways and when it gets down to less than half (of the students) showing up, we decided going full remote would be a good idea.

“It was not an easy decision,” Hayes continued. “There were a lot of factors going into it. We half way expected the governor to make an announcement about a stay-at-home order that would impact schooling.”

On Friday, five of the seven counties in the Southern Seven Health Department region were placed in the orange “warning” designation due to increases in the metrics of New Case Rate and Test Positivity. Massac County had 384 potential new cases based on 54 positive cases per 100,000 reported. The test positivity percentage for the county was 13.8% out of 276 tests.

By Monday, Southern Seven reported Massac County has 38 new cases — one female less than 5-years old; two females less than 10-years old; two females in their teens; three males in their teens; six females in their 20s; three females in their 30s; two males in their 30s; one female in her 40s; two males in their 40s; two females in their 50s; two males in their 50s; three females in their 60s; one male in his 60; one female in her 70s; four females in their 80s; two males in their 80s; and one female in her 90s. Massac County now has 314 total cases, 125 of which are recovered and 187 are active. There have been two COVID-related deaths.

Hayes said he talked with Southern Seven’s Morgan Frayer before announcing the final decision.

“Morgan was very helpful in talking through it with me and letting me know what she’s been seeing — it is here and the positivity rate is just going to go up,” he said. “She also mentioned the demographics they’re seeing sho it’s starting to hit our student age group pretty hard. We’ve had a case here and there, but now we’re getting multiple (student-age) cases per week. Our staff on Friday, four either went on quarantine or were waiting for test results.”

To this point, Unit 1 has had over 380 staff and students who’ve been quarantined over the school year. There are still 140 who are under quarantine now.

“I was really hoping we wouldn’t have to (go full remote, but) this is the only response we have until it settles down,” Hayes said.

Remote learning is scheduled to last for three weeks, giving a week after Thanksgiving break before students and staff are scheduled to return to in-person learning on Dec. 7. Hayes said numbers will be re-evaluated the week of Nov. 30 before a final decision is made on Dec. 4.

“I’m hopeful it’ll cycle on through and slow back down so we can get back on Dec. 7,” Hayes said. “I really would like to get our kids back in our schools. Every (school) board member, most of our teachers, staff and even the students we heard from wanted to stay in school and not go remote. This isn’t what we wanted or the best case scenario, but when we first started the year, we really didn’t expect to get past Labor Day with in-person learning with the way things were going. We almost made it to Thanksgiving. For the most part, we’re still looking at this as a short-term solution. Hopefully, we’ll get back on Dec. 7 and try again.”

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