By Crystal Burns
Trenton Special School District teachers went back to school last week to participate in professional development.
The district hosted a picnic for all employees on July 22 at Shady Acres Park. Principals introduced new members of their respective staffs before Michele Elliott, supervisor of Teaching & Learning, handed the program off to Dr. Jim Williams. She called Williams “a calming voice” who has worked closely with school administrators over the past months.
Williams gave brief remarks on the novel coronavirus, encouraging school personnel to have a plan, stick to the plan, and hang in there.
“Don’t panic,” Williams said. “Don’t let this drive you crazy.”
He noted that at his Christian Family Medicine offices in Trenton and McKenzie, he has treated more people for anxiety than COVID-19 since February, when Americans first began hearing about and contracting the novel coronavirus.
Williams explained how COVID-19 is spread, saying time of exposure, proximity of exposure, and how much virus a person carries all play a role. While the virus can spread through aerosol droplets and surfaces, Williams said large respiratory droplets are the main carriers. Exposure can be reduced by wearing a face mask.
“Masks are important,” Williams said. “I don’t know why the face covering got so political.”
Cloth face masks will reduce the viral load, and most people tolerate masks well, he said. Some people do get anxious when wearing a mask.
He also encouraged teachers to avoid large events, spread out, wash hands often for at least 20 seconds each time, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol, avoid touching the face, and refrain from shaking hands.
Williams said that while administrators have adopted thorough sanitation plans with the janitorial staff, one thing teachers can easily do between classes is clean doorknobs and light switches with disinfectant spray or cloths.
Williams noted how rapidly information about COVID-19 changes. He said the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) first adopted a test-based strategy for people who tested positive for the virus to return to work. Now, the strategy is symptom-based with some employers allowing employees to return to work after a certain number of days without symptoms. Williams said studies show that people who were asymptomatic or had mild cases of the virus have a low enough viral load after 10 days that they don’t shed the virus. Those who are hospitalized can usually resume normal activities after 20 days with no symptoms.
Williams said it’s important to develop and follow strategies. He said his office personnel have been diligent and fortunately have not had any incidents of COVID-19 among employees.
“So much of this is fluid,” Williams said. “It’s changing rapidly. Even the science is changing, so just hang in there.”
After Williams’ remarks, Elliott introduced the district’s CARES Team comprised of Holly Barnett, Stephanie Franks, and Tracy Simmons. The women are using CDC guidelines to develop plans for each school building in the event a student or employee displays symptoms of COVID-19 at school or a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19. The trio presented the information to teachers in all three schools last week.