Local grandparent concerned about COVID cases, safety protocols at grandson’s school

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:03 PM EDT
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WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Like many districts across the Midlands, Lexington School District 2 is grappling with containing COVID-19 outbreaks in its classrooms.

The district recently shifted four schools to virtual learning: Cayce Elementary, Northside Middle, Wood Elementary, and Pine Ridge Middle. They made this shift due to the impact the virus has had on students, staff, and safety protocols.

Cayce and Northside returned to in-person learning yesterday, and Wood and Pine Ridge are set to return on Monday.

L2 also instituted a temporary mask mandate across district schools, which started last Friday and lasts until the end of October.

At Airport High School in West Columbia, one grandparent is concerned about the safety of his grandson and his family due to what he calls a lack of social distancing at the school.

Without changes to safety protocols, Gerald Lebby fears his grandson could catch COVID at school.

“In catching the virus, you know he could get sick, possibly die or bring it home to us: me, his grandfather, his mother, his brothers, sisters,” he said.

He said his grandson opts not to each lunch in the cafeteria due to overcrowding.

Lebby and his grandson are vaccinated, but he expressed fears about his grandchild interacting with unvaccinated students, potentially catching a breakthrough case, and bringing it home.

Part of Lebby’s worries stem from the fact that he has underlying health conditions, which make him more susceptible to a severe bout with COVID, and has friends and loved ones who have died from the virus.

According to a study posted by the CDC last week, among vaccinated adults with breakthrough cases that put them in the hospital, about 71 percent had three or more underlying health conditions.

L2′s latest numbers show that currently over 100 airport high students are stuck at home. 31 students are COVID positive, and 77 are actively quarantining.

In response to Lebby’s concerns, the district sent this statement: “We have actually seen a slight decrease in the number of positives in our data for Airport over the past 2 reporting days with nearly 10 fewer positive student cases and the student quarantine numbers cut nearly in half. At Airport, we do employ a number of health and safety protocols that we started last year, including social distancing to the greatest extent possible, relying on a number of different resources.”

Lebby says the return of the mask mandate helps ease some of his nerves, but he still believes that the school should shift to e-learning like other district schools.

“Return to virtual with the schooling,” he said. “And protect the children because you know they’re saying, ‘Hey, look children are our most important issue, and our concerns are for them.’ And I say well how can your concerns be for them when you have no safety protocol in place? You say that you have, but I say that you haven’t.”

The district’s statement continues: “We use the 5 percent rule as a guideline for moving to temporary remote learning. This is when 5 percent of the student population in a school is positive with COVID-19 or trending. A school also can move to temporary remote learning when there are concerns with appropriately staffing the school.”

Lebby feels that this metric is unacceptable.

“I mean what you’re doing you’re gambling with children’s lives, and you’re gambling with their family’s lives,” he said. “I don’t feel that you know you should put me and my family or anybody’s family at risk.”

L2 says student positives and quarantines are down district-wide over the past two reporting days as well. They attribute this to temporary remote learning at certain schools and say they expect those numbers to continue to improve now that the face coverings are required again.

The city of West Columbia announced this week that it would be providing a $50,000 grant to L2 for COVID prevention and enforcing its mask recent mask mandate.

The district says “our goal is to keep students in school, and we know we are moving in the right direction on this.”

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