2020 - 2021 LCS District Updates

This page was created with the intent of keeping all Lawton Community Schools members (students, parents, family members, teachers, administration, etc.) updated with latest information. Posts on this page shall be updated as soon as we are made aware of any situations pertaining to our community members or information that has been shared with us from the county or state health department.

LCS Positive Cases Update

Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan

October 14, 2020

District Process For Handling Positive COVID-19 Cases

Many may be wondering how the district handles information and makes decisions when we learn of positive case or exposure. The purpose of this memo is to provide some clarity regarding that process.

Reports of positive tests for COVID-19 may be received from our VBISD Liaison to the Health Department or from any individual or parent associated with our district. When received, the Health Department will typically ask for information to assist them in contact tracing. It’s worth noting that given the high number of cases being experienced across the country, including SW Michigan, the Health Department is stretched extremely thin and contact tracing is often unable to occur in a timely fashion. This makes it difficult for schools to act quickly and consistently. However, please know and trust that when we learn of a positive case associated with any of our schools, the school community will be notified. In addition to our normal School Messenger calls and emails, we will post information on our Facebook page, and on our website under District Updates. If you hear of a potential, positive case and have not heard from the district, this means we do not yet have confirmation. 

For contact tracing, we’ll typically provide the Health Department with class lists, seating charts, team rosters or any other information that might be helpful in determining who is a close contact. Close contacts are defined as anyone who was within six feet of the positive individual for a cumulative 15 minutes. Multiple days may be used to determine if a total of 15 minutes of exposure occurred. 

Based on the information we are able to provide and what is reported by the positive individual, the Health Department will determine who they believe are close contacts. These close contacts will likely be directed to quarantine for up to 14 days after the last date of exposure. Again, this decision is made by the Health Department, not the district. In each case, we will not divulge the names of any positive individual. We will, however, do our best to inform anyone who may have been a close contact.

If the number of individuals who are considered close contacts is high enough, the district may decide to move temporarily to virtual instruction for the duration of the quarantine. In each of our recent cases, this decision has been left to the discretion of the district. Closing a school building and moving to virtual instruction will not always be how we handle positive cases. If possible and considered safe, we could instead close a classroom or simply move ahead with the quarantined students only moved to virtual instruction.

One of the most common questions I receive involves secondary contacts. For example, let’s say a student or group of students is exposed and told to quarantine. How does this affect the families or friends of those students? Family and friends would be considered secondary contacts and likely not subject to any restrictions or quarantine. If a close contact were to become ill this changes things and secondary contacts may then become close contacts.

The Health Department is now identifying individuals as positive, probable, or potential cases of COVID-19. A probable case is an individual who has symptoms, has been exposed to a positive case, but does not have a test result. For our purposes, probable cases are treated just like positive cases including contact tracing and quarantine. Potential cases are individuals who have been exposed to a positive case but are asymptomatic or have received a negative test result. In these cases, contact tracing will not occur.

We’ve certainly learned that each case is unique and requires action based on the details of that particular case. We have a document from the Health Department that identifies many scenarios and we use this whenever it’s applicable. However, some situations aren’t in the “book” and require our best judgement.

We absolutely know how important it is to have kids in school. But safety must and will always be our first priority. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Chris Rice

October 12, 2020

Hello Blue Devils,

It has certainly been an eventful couple of weeks. Let me begin by thanking you for your understanding of the difficult choices we’ve been forced to make in light of recent positive cases of COVID-19. Thankfully, our teachers were ready for this possibility and I trust that they will continue to provide students in all buildings quality instruction - especially in those buildings currently learning remotely. 

As shared in previous School Messenger calls, we learned late Sunday that an individual associated with our Elementary School has tested positive. We are in the process of collecting names and contact information for anyone who may have been in close contact with the individual. That information will be shared with the Van Buren Cass County Health Department who will begin contact tracing. Those identified as close contacts will likely be quarantined - at least through October 19. A common question I’ve received involves secondary contacts - those who have been in close contact with a close contact. Unless a close contact becomes ill, those who have been near them, need not quarantine. Those with specific questions about possible exposure are encouraged to contact me at 624-7997 or crice@lawtoncs.org. Parents of all school-age children are strongly encouraged to conduct daily health screenings including temperature checks. This is not the time to “tough it out”. If your child shows any symptoms associated with Covid-19, please keep them home and contact your health care provider. With cases on the rise, we must do all we can to minimize community spread. 

With our current situation and the number of Elementary students who may be considered close contacts, we made the decision to switch to fully remote learning for Elementary students through Oct. 19. We are hopeful to resume onsite instruction on Tuesday, Oct. 20. A reminder to all that Monday, Oct. 19 is Fall Break and a no school day for all students (PreK-12). Friday, Oct. 16 is a half-day for all students. During the remote learning period, Elementary teachers will be posting assignments in their Google Classroom. Please contact your child’s teacher via Class Dojo or call the Elementary Office with any questions about school work. 

While it may seem like an odd time to conduct a Return To School survey, we did announce this opportunity for parents and will continue with the process. Below are two surveys for families who have been learning remotely all year. There are separate surveys for Elementary and Middle School. One survey is required for each child. Again, this survey is only for those students who have been learning virtually all year. If you wish for your child to return to in-person instruction, you must submit this survey by 3pm this Wednesday, Oct. 14. The next opportunity to return to onsite instruction will occur at the end of the first trimester in late November. That opportunity will extend to students in all grade levels including high school. Please contact me or the appropriate building principal with any questions about the survey or returning to school. 

Elementary Virtual Learner Survey

Middle School Virtual Learner Survey

Stay well,

Chris Rice

October 11, 2020

Dear Blue Devils,

We learned today that a parapro who last worked in the Elementary School last Thursday has tested positive for Covid-19. In the coming days, we will be working with the Health Dept. to identify anyone who may have been in close contact with the individual. While this process occurs, the Elementary will be shifting to remote learning starting tomorrow, Monday, October 12. This remote learning period will last at least through October 19 which is a scheduled fall break with no school. Our goal at this time is to return to onsite instruction at the Elementary School on Tuesday, October 20.

A reminder that onsite instruction for middle school students is expected to resume on Thursday, October 15. As additional information becomes available, we will be sure to share it with you. Elementary students should check their teacher's Google classroom tomorrow morning for assignments and information. Questions may be directed to teachers via email or class dojo.

Please continue to monitor your child's health daily including regular temperature checks. Should any symptoms associated with Covid-19 arise, please contact your child's health care provider immediately.

Thank you.

Chris Rice

Message from Athletic Director, Chris Richter

October 8, 2020

Dear Lawton Community,

Recently, the MHSAA changed its spectator/attendance policy for both indoor and outdoor venues. This change allowed each outdoor venue to fill their stadiums to 30% capacity. In Lawton's case this equates to 470 spectators for Football and Soccer. Indoor events are allowed 20% capacity which equates to 223 spectators for volleyball. Another policy implemented by the M HSAA was that 50% of available tickets were to be distributed to the opposing school. While we can all agree that our opponents may not use all of their allotted tickets, I need to share why we will not be redistributing any of our opponent's unused tickets. The Athletic Department's #1 priority is to keep these young people on the field of play. As we have learned with the Middle School programs being shut down for two weeks, athletic competitions are not guaranteed right now. If we were to sell any of our opponent's unused tickets, they would be purchased by Lawton supporters. These additional spectators would then add to our 235 spectators and pack our bleachers. Undeniably, the revenue from the gate and concession stand would be profitable, but we cannot make our decision based on money. The #1 priority is to keep these kids on the field. It only takes one person and with a packed crowd unable to social distance, we could have a spread that not only endangers members of our community but could potentially shut down the athletic programs all together. This is a risk we cannot afford to take. With the extra tickets that Lawton has, we will be offering them to the student body first. These young people are the ones who are truly missing out on the high school experience and this new spectator capacity allows us the opportunity to give that back to them. Like so many of you, we look forward to the sight of a full home crowd packed with exuberant Blue Devil Community members and fans. Until that day comes, we ask that you continue to cheer on the blue and gold from outside the venue. I encourage those unable to attend in person to catch the games via the live streaming production.

Thank you all for your continued support of Lawton Athletics.

Chris Richter

October 7, 2020

Dear Blue Devils,

I have several important topics to address with this update. 

  1. Early Return Opportunity for K-8 Virtual Learners: Feedback received from students, parents, and teachers indicates that many of our K-8 virtual students are having a difficult time. And while we are concerned about adding bodies to our classrooms, we feel that it is in the best interest of these virtual students to offer an opportunity to return to onsite instruction. This window will be open from Monday, Oct. 12 through Wednesday, Oct 14 at 3pm. Those electing to return will do so on Tuesday, Oct. 20. A reminder that Monday, Oct. 19 is our Fall Break and is a No School day. Any virtual learner who has not elected to return will remain in a virtual setting through the end of the trimester which ends on November 24. Prior to that date, another window will be opened. Those wishing to remain virtual will be allowed to do so. However, virtual parents are asked to give consideration to how successful your child has been when making this decision. Surveys will be posted and shared with virtual families no later than 9:00am on Monday, Oct. 12. 

    This early return opportunity is not being offered to high school students who must complete current Apex courses to earn credit toward graduation requirements. These students will have an opportunity to return at the end of the trimester. 
  1. Athletic Events: As you may be aware, the MHSAA and MDHHS recently issued new guidance allowing school districts to expand the number of spectators allowed in attendance at events. For outside events held at Packer Stadium, we are limited to 30% of the stadium capacity. This provides us with the ability to allow up to 470 spectators. The requirements indicate that these tickets must be split evenly with the visiting team. Therefore for our home contests, we will be able to issue 235 tickets. We do not expect to exceed this limit for soccer games and as such we will allow spectators with exact change ($5 per person) to attend.  

    For football games, we will continue to provide each participant with (2) tickets. This includes players, coaches, cheerleaders, and now the band as well. We welcome back the band for this Friday’s Homecoming game. And while there won’t be a halftime show, their presence will certainly enhance the atmosphere. Also for this week’s game, we will be giving (2) tickets to each member of the Homecoming court. After these tickets are issued, we expect to have approximately 65 tickets remaining. We feel it is important for those tickets to be offered first to our students. If any tickets remain, which is unlikely, they will be offered to the general public for presale. No tickets will be sold at the gate. Again, exact change is required for entry. Face coverings remain a requirement for all in attendance. Home football games will continue to be broadcast via YouTube providing an opportunity to watch for those unable to attend. 

    Indoor events are limited to 20% of capacity or 223 people. Similar to Soccer, we do not expect Volleyball matches to exceed that limit and will allow spectators with exact change to attend contests. Again, face coverings are required for all. 

  1. Virtual Instruction at Lawton Middle School: To allow for a safe return to school for all students and staff, including those who have been under quarantine, we will be extending the virtual learning period through Tuesday, Oct. 13. With some good luck and good health, we plan to resume in person classes at LMS on Thursday, Oct. 15. Those students who have been learning onsite and picked up a school device or hotspot must return those items when returning to school on 10/15. 

  1. Middle School Athletics: The quarantine period for the vast majority of our students and athletes ends on Saturday, Oct. 10. Because of this, we will allow LMS teams to resume team activities on Monday, Oct. 12. Those students who remain on quarantine should not attend team activities until their quarantine period has ended. It is assumed that these students have been contacted by the Health Department regarding the length of their quarantine. No student currently under quarantine will be admitted to any athletic events held this week at Lawton High School. 

As always, I am happy to answer any questions you may have or to direct you to the appropriate administrator. 

Chris Rice

October 6, 2020

Dear Lawton Schools Family,

On Friday of last week, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that all Executive Orders issued by the Governor since April 30, 2020 are null and void. This ruling centered around the Governor’s ability to take such actions during a State of Emergency without the involvement of the legislature. It did not speak to the constitutionality of specific content within the Executive Orders including masks, social distancing, and other safety protocols. The ruling led to a great deal of conjecture and speculation over the weekend. 

Much of that uncertainty was given clarity on Monday Oct. 5 with the issuance of an Emergency Order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Please see the link below for the full language of that order.

MDHHS possesses legal authority to issue such Orders in the Public Health Code which states:

If the director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. Emergency procedures shall not be limited to this code.

As such, this Order likely carries with it an even stronger legal basis than the Governor’s Orders. Furthermore, the Van Buren Cass County Health Department has issued a public statement affirming the MDHHS Emergency Order. And finally, school districts have received legal guidance advising that we remain status quo and affirming our rights to establish protocols that we believe are in the interest of health and safety.  

Given this recent guidance from public health authorities, Lawton Community Schools will continue to require all students and staff wear face coverings while at school unless the individual possesses a legitimate medical exemption. 

To date, the MHSAA has not issued a response to the ruling. As such, and again as indicated in the MDHHS Emergency Order, we will continue to require face coverings for all athletes, extra-curricular participants, and spectators at school events. Those who are unwilling or unable to wear a face covering will not be admitted to school-sponsored events. 

We all entered this school year with a certain amount of apprehension. Having our schools open is important to our students and our community. If we are to continue benefiting from open school buildings and the activities associated with open schools, we must remain vigilant with the health protocols currently in place. 

Therefore, until further notice, Lawton Community Schools will continue to adhere to the Preparedness Plan developed and approved by the Board of Education in August 2020. 

Stay Strong. Stay Safe.

Chris Rice