The Union County College Corner Joint School District held a public work session Nov. 17 to discuss the state of COVID-19 in the community and how the district will cope through the end of the year.

The situation in Union County has changed significantly since the board last met on Nov. 9. Superintendent Aron Borowiak presented an update to the board on what COVID-19 looks like in the district's schools and the community in general.

Prior to the Nov. 9 meeting the district suspended all extracurricular activities for a period of two weeks in response to quarantines among students and staff shutting down two athletic teams. Borowiak noted the importance of extracurricular activities, but the schools' primary focus is keeping students in class, prompting the suspension.

Shortly after the extracurricular suspension, an increase in quarantines among staff members pushed the district to move instruction for all middle and high school students online. Staff from those schools were able to help fill in gaps in the district's elementary schools, allowing those schools to continue in-person classes. Borowiak emphasized the closure was due to a lack of staffing to operate the buildings, not because COVID-19 was being spread in the buildings.

Borowiak reported to the board the district has recorded a total of 14 positive cases among students and 13 among staff members. For the current week, the district has recorded two students and two staff with positive cases.

Extracurricular activities are scheduled to resume Nov. 23 and in-person education at the middle and high schools on Nov. 30. Upon return of extracurriculars, Borowiak emphasized the desire to restrict students to small groups, or pods. By limiting the number of other students each child is in close contact with, new cases will result in fewer quarantines. Examples offered includes keeping varsity and JV basketball teams separated or wrestlers practicing against only two or three peers. The return of extracurricular activities while the middle and high schools remain closed was discussed, but most board members were in support.

Borowiak moved the discussion to planning for December, noting the possibility that further quarantines could result in insufficient staffing. He told the board most high school teachers would feel comfortable holding online classes for two additional weeks if needed but would prefer to come back to the building for finals week.

Middle school teachers would prefer to remain in virtual classes in December if needed. Regarding hybrid schedules some area schools have adopted, UCCCJSD staff suggests they can offer a better instructional experience in a full virtual environment compared to hybrid.

The board discussed some schools in the state making long term plans, choosing to stay remote until mid-January or longer. In the end, the general consensus was to remain fluid and make decisions based on current conditions as needed.