Pattonville Participates in CDC Study with SLU and Washington University as K-8 Returns to Phase 1

With+St.+Louis+County+receiving+weekly+shipments+of+vaccines%2C+St.+Louis+County+Executive+Dr.+Sam+Page+has+lifted+some+COVID-19+restrictions.+

Matthew Jacobi

With St. Louis County receiving weekly shipments of vaccines, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page has lifted some COVID-19 restrictions.

After a year of uncertainty and perplexity, it seems that everyone’s lives are slowly returning to “normal.” Students returning to school in-person, restaurants and businesses going up to 50% capacity, tournaments returning to youth sports, and vaccinations being produced and distributed are all signs of a hopeful descent back to a more sane year.

Pattonville’s younger students moved into Phase 1 of in-person learning this past week, returning to five days of in-person learning. Elementary schools and Remington returned on February 22, and middle school students moved to attending classes five days a week on Monday, March 1.

Dr. Pecoraro explained the reasoning behind moving to Phase 1. “Since last March, we’ve been consistent with how we’ve determined our in-person phase. We rely on the advice from the health experts that advise Pattonville and other area school districts, we track community transmission rates, and most importantly pay close attention to what’s happening in our schools related to COVID (positive cases).”

Our teachers and other staff should be commended for how they have navigated this pandemic and worked tirelessly to help our students. Although Phase 1 provides some sense of normality, it’s important to remember we have to continue to follow the same health and safety mitigation strategies we’ve been following in order for this transition to be successful.”

— Dr. Pecoraro

“In addition,” Dr. Pecoraro stated, “Pattonville has been involved in a study with the CDC, Saint Louis University and Washington University since December that has focused on school transmission and mitigation strategies.”

“Preliminary results are positive and an official release of the study’s results is expected soon,” he said. “Our close relationship with multiple epidemiologists from the CDC, Saint Louis University and Washington University has paved the way for us to return to school full-time (5 days a week) for those families (70%) that selected in-person learning for the second semester.”

Phase 1 provides some advantages for the in-person students that did not apply in Phase 2, like five days of in-person instruction.

“This helps not only on the learning side but on the mental health side for some of our students who have been struggling since they haven’t been in school full-time,” Dr. Pecoraro explained.

“[In Phase 1], I am looking forward to being able to see my friends from the other track,” stated Urooj Fatima, a sophomore at PHS.

And while Phase 1 does provide some advantages, it also provides some challenges, too, like physical distancing.

“When the number of students in a classroom basically doubles from what we’re experiencing in Phase 2, we know there will be less physical distancing,” Dr. Pecoraro acknowledged.

“Our approach, based on the recommendation of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, is to continue to physical distance to the greatest extent possible,” Dr. Pecoraro said. “If we can do six feet, that’s great. In some classrooms, that is not possible, so we will arrange the classroom the best we can to promote the most physical distancing that we can.”

Greg Adam, PHS mathematics teacher, also has some concerns about moving to Phase 1.

“Some class sizes are going to be huge which WILL NOT allow for adequate spacing, hallways are going to be so crowded, and why change something, that is currently working for a majority of students and teachers? Especially if we only have over two months left when we come back [from Spring Break],” Mr. Adam stated.

Mr. Adam is currently a virtual teacher for semester 2. “I believe that certain high school students thrive in this learning environment.”

“I hope that I am conveying my love for virtual teaching over the airwaves when I am teaching. With technology always moving forward, I think that virtual learning and teaching need to follow suit. We have been given an unimaginable circumstance that no one has ever seen. Let’s learn from this, in education, and turn it into this great opportunity to embrace technology and the new way that students can learn,” Mr. Adam explained.

Although PHS is currently in Phase 2, some teachers expect the high school to move to Phase 1 in the next couple of weeks.

“I believe that we will go back to Phase 1 after spring break. It just appears that everything is leaning that way,” Mr. Adam said.

Ms. Funderburk, English teacher, also believes that PHS will move to Phase 1 in the coming weeks.

“I do think it is possible that the high school moves to Phase 1 in the next couple of weeks. This would certainly be an adjustment in terms of being able to distance in class. The ability to spread out is just something that isn’t possible with larger class sizes,” Ms. Funderburk explained.

Even though some teachers think that Pattonville High School could move to Phase 1, there has been no official announcement from Pattonville School District that the high school will move to Phase 1.

Outside of Pattonville, St. Louis County has also been making progress to combat the virus and bring back activities.

St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page recently allowed on February 14 for tournaments to be able to return to youth and adult sports.

Restaurants and businesses are also now allowed to move up to 50% occupancy, from the previous 25%.

During Dr. Page’s media briefing, Dr. Page announced that as of March 3, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health has administered 30,000 doses of vaccines, including first and second doses.

The FDA recently issued an emergency use authorization for the third COVID-19 vaccine, Johnson and Johnson’s. Dr. Page stated that on March 2, St. Louis County received 2,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine. St. Louis County is also receiving weekly shipments of 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Lastly, St. Louis County is working with the Missouri National Guard to have a mass vaccination event on Saturday, March 6, at the North County Recreational Center from 9 am to 7 pm. For those wanting a vaccination, they need to register at stlcorona.com. No walk-ups will be accepted.