EXPLAINING THE GATING CRITERIA
Our USD #310 Board of Education approved the Fairfield USD #310 Gating Criteria Chart on Monday, September 14th, 2020. The first week that it will take effect for Fairfield Schools starts on Monday, September 21. This article is an attempt to help you understand the chart better and to know what criteria is being used to determine how school is held. The chart is featured in this newsletter and it might help for you to be looking at the chart while reading this article.
First off, the colors across the top and the measures are the same for all Reno County Schools and use county-wide data released from the Reno County Health Department (RCHD) on Friday mornings to superintendents. It is not readily available data, because prisoners are removed from the county data. There are two measures: New Cases and Positive Test Rates (PTR.) For now, we are using ONLY the number of new cases over the past 14 days. This is due to the fact that most of the people tested in our county are showing symptoms, and the PTR is only accurate when you are testing a monthly threshold of 3.6 percent (or more) of the total county population. Since we are not doing that yet, we are using the number of active cases instead. These numbers were developed by many doctors in our county, led by Dr. Scott Paulie, and also in conjunction with Karen Hammersmith, Director of the RCHD. A large part of the scale for numbers came from our hospital capacity. All Reno County superintendents were involved in the creation of the gating criteria.
There are four categories: Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red. There are also gray areas in between the categories where individual districts can work together with the RCHD to determine a plan of action. Here is a breakdown of how this works. For the GREEN category, the county must have less than 56 new cases in the past 14 days. On-campus learning will proceed with Fairfield Schools following our Reopening Plan Guidelines. There will be the fewest restrictions at this point. If the county reaches between 62 and 113 new cases, we are in the YELLOW stage. We still have K-12 students on-campus, but there are a few more restrictions and modifications to sports crowds, etc… We have been in the yellow category since school began on August 26. Next comes the ORANGE category, where the number of new cases in the past 14 days is between 119 and 170. At that point, our PK-4th grade students would learn on-campus, while our 5th-12th grade students would follow a hybrid schedule for a two-week period. Hybrid may mean part-time remote and part-time on-campus; it may involve modified schedules or students still on campus, depending upon the COVID situation at our school. At this point sporting events may still take place, but no spectators are allowed. Only active participants can travel to sporting events. Also, our After-School Program would not be held. This would last for 14 days until the next two weeks data is released on Friday. Hopefully if things have improved, we would drop to a less restrictive stage. The most restrictive category is the RED stage, where there are over 175 new cases in the past two weeks. In this case, all students would stay home and learn remotely. All facilities would be closed except for teachers who would be working from school. There will be no After-School and no extra-curricular activities or sports, but our daycare would remain open unless closed by the RCHD or KDHE.
At any stage or color, students have the option to learn remotely. However, to avoid a cycle of in-and-out transfers, we ask that these changes be made at the start of a new quarter. Also, keep in mind that if we ever begin testing a monthly threshold of 3.6% or more of the population, we will no longer use the new case data. At that point we would use the Positive Test Rate, and those categories are as follows: Green (PTR less than 5%); Yellow (PTR 5.7-10%); Orange (PTR 10.7-15%); and Red (PTR more than 15.7%). This chart is what we will use to determine whether or not school will be held at Fairfield. The colors and numbers are the same for every Reno County School. The part that is different for districts is the exact response to each of the categories. Overall, the district charts look very similar with only minor changes. The criteria are subject to change by actions of federal, state, county, or local authorities.
It is our hope that by releasing this chart to the public, everyone will see that the community spread of COVID has a direct effect on whether or not our students get to attend school on-campus. It is also our hope that every county resident will do their part to help stem the spread of the virus.