Central School

Central Elementary School in Banning.

BY DAVID JAMES HEISS

Record Gazette

Since schools resumed Jan. 3, cases of COVID-19 have risen, with some returning students testing positive for the virus.

Dashboard statistics posted weekly by the Beaumont and Banning school districts are not as quick to reflect what is happening at school sites as social media and other online platforms have been, and, at least in Banning, has generated slight confusion over messages: one post claiming that classes are canceled, while another saying that classes are resuming in-person.

“Banning is experiencing the same issues with staffing and students having COVID, which is causing disruptions,” school board President Leslie Sattler said. “Our goal is to accelerate student achievement, and the only way to do that is to have students in-person.”

Banning joins other schools in relying on Concentric, the Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks’ public health and biosecurity initiative, to conduct testing twice a week at its school sites.

If a student at elementary sites tests positive they are sent home, the remainder of the students in that classroom who were exposed qualify to be quarantined as part of a modified quarantined classroom, limiting interactions to just those within their class, according to Barbara Wolford, director of Student Services in Banning.

“Students in modified quarantine can stay at school and test twice weekly,” she said. “At some sites, there’s great participation. At other sites, some parents prefer to keep their kids at home and quarantine for 10 days,” in which cases they essentially are homeschooled and responsible for keeping up with the same lessons their peers are having in-person.

As of Tuesday evening, Central Elementary School and Banning High School lead the case counts; since the Dashboard weekly updates would not have reflected new cases since Monday, Banning’s Chief Academic Officer Tonia Causey-Bush broke down some numbers for the Record Gazette, reporting that there have been 28 positive cases among students reported at Banning High School since school resumed Jan. 3, plus four staff so far earlier this week.

At Central Elementary School, during that same timeframe 36 students and 10 staff have tested positive.

“With testing we try to catch students before they become symptomatic,” Wolford said, noting that sometimes students will walk around reporting headaches, not realizing that is one of the symptoms sometimes associated with COVID-19.

Five active quarantines were reported at Nicolet Middle School in Banning for Jan. 3-7.

According to Banning’s Dashboard, there were 162 active quarantines at Central School, and 23 at the Florida Street Discovery Center, the district’s preschool.

Beaumont Unified School District’s Dashboard as of Tuesday evening claimed to have last been updated at 4 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2021, and depicted Beaumont High School as having the highest active positive COVID-19 cases at 8, all of them students.

At other sites, case counts reflect students and staff: Mountain View Middle School had five; Starlight, Sundance and Tournament Hills elementary schools, and Summerwind Trails School each had two cases, as did Beaumont Adult School; and one case was reported at Anna Hause Elementary School, Palm Innovation Academy, San Gorgonio Middle School.

A note on Beaumont’s dashboard claims “Since the start of the school year (August 5, 2021) there have been 387 positive COVID-19 cases among students. Some of these cases were reported to the school district before the first day of school. Since the start of the school year, there have been 69 positive COVID-19 cases among staff members.”

Francinni Zabata, spokeswoman for Beaumont Unified, explains that the Dashboard will be updated every Friday, starting with this week.

“Our ultimate goal is keeping our schools open,” she says. “For this we are asking everyone’s cooperation. We’ve been communicating with parents since last week about our continued COVID-19 protocols and processes, and the district has distributed thousands of at-home COVID-19 antigen tests for students” since the latter part of last week.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

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