Below is a copy of Superintendent David Sutton’s letter sent to parents regarding changes in school operations.
Dec. 9, 2020
Since August, Rutherford County Schools has moved incrementally through several phases of school reopening in response to changing local conditions and evolving state requirements. Those of you who monitor our School Health Dashboard, updated each weekday on our school system’s website, have almost certainly observed some disturbing trends:
• Positive COVID-19 test results in our local community rose to an alarming level a few weeks ago and continue to trend upward, suggesting not only widespread but also escalating transmission of the illness throughout our local community.
• COVID-19 exposures within our schools have risen sharply. Earlier this fall, school-based exposures were rare and isolated. However, since early November, we have recorded 28 school-based exposure events, and 478 persons have been exposed to COVID-19 within the school setting. Those exposures are overwhelmingly concentrated in our elementary schools, where social distancing in classroom settings is eliminated under Plan A.
• Since mid-November, we have observed an uncontrolled increase in the number of school employees quarantined under requirements established by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. On Monday, November 16, 31 school employees were quarantined. On Monday, December 7, 144 school employees were quarantined.
Over those three weeks, we saw more than a 450% increase in the number of quarantined school employees. At that rate of
escalation, we can reasonably forecast that the number of quarantined school employees will reach or exceed 400 by the time we reach the upcoming Christmas break.
Regrettably, we have reached a critical point where school operations are simply no longer sustainable under our current delivery model. During its meeting last night, the Rutherford County Board of Education approved the following plan to modify school operations in response to those conditions:
• All elementary schools will temporarily transition to Plan C for remote learning only from Monday, December 14, until Tuesday, January 19. All elementary schools will reopen for hybrid learning under Plan B on Tuesday, January 19.
• All middle and high schools except the Rutherford Opportunity Center will temporarily transition to Plan C for remote learning only from Wednesday, January 6, until they reopen for hybrid learning under Plan B on Tuesday, January 19.
We do not approach these changes lightly, and we recognize how difficult they will be.
Nevertheless, we must respond to conditions affecting our schools. Last summer, I pledged that we would reopen our schools in a safe, healthy, and responsible way because I believe that our students are best served in our classrooms and that we share an ethical and professional duty to prioritize the health and safety of the students, employees, parents, families, and citizens who depend on our schools. I am hopeful that these adjustments will help us weather current conditions and avoid the widespread and prolonged school closures we experienced last spring.
As always, we appreciate your trust and confidence, and we are grateful for your continued engagement and support even in the face of unprecedented obstacles. Especially given the difficulties, challenges, and frustrations we have faced together in 2020.
I wish each of you a joyful, peaceful, and safe holiday season.
David M. Sutton, Ed.D.