The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 1:00 am

FWCS making vaccine strides

But superintendent cites ongoing 'crisis'

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne Community Schools began the fifth week of classes with 26% of middle and high school students fully vaccinated – a significant increase since early August, when the rate was 4%, Superintendent Mark Daniel told the board.

The district of almost 30,000 students and about 4,000 employees continues to battle COVID-19, however.

Student and employee COVID-19 cases totaled 537 in only four weeks, representing 36% of the district's 1,499 cases last academic year, Daniel said Monday. He noted 80% of the cases were among students, and 92% were among unvaccinated individuals.

The cumulative number of students quarantined has exceeded 3,600, Daniel added.

“When I say we're still in a pandemic and a crisis,” he said, “we are still in a pandemic and crisis.”

It is vital to adhere to the district's prevention strategies, which include frequent hand-washing, social distancing, indoor mask-wearing and staying home when sick, Daniel said.

Parents reporting COVID-like symptoms for their children will receive an automated message reminding them of the rules for safe return, Daniel said. He noted the automated response was created out of necessity, not preference.

“We can't keep up with the volume of messaging,” Daniel said.

The state's new quarantine rules for schools mandating masks have lessened the number of students needing to quarantine, but lunch and co-curricular activities remain areas of concern regarding spread of the disease, Daniel said.

Fully vaccinated individuals can avoid quarantines if they aren't showing symptoms. Daniel said he suspects this has contributed to the increase in vaccinations among students 12 and older, particularly high school seniors.

Overall, he said, 17% of middle school students and 33% of high school students are fully vaccinated. The rates increase with the grade levels and range from 1% of sixth graders vaccinated to 37% of 12th graders vaccinated.

Daniel said teachers are doing their best to accommodate students sent home.

“Please have patience and provide grace for all our workers,” he said, “because everyone is literally at the edge.”

The Indiana Department of Health announced Tuesday that 3,580 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing to 913,528 the total number of Indiana residents now known to have had the coronavirus.

To date, 14,482 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, which includes 91 newly reported deaths that occurred between Aug. 29 and Sept. 13. An additional 458 probable deaths have been reported to date based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.

In Allen County, 179 more residents tested positive for COVID-19 and one person has died, bringing the totals Tuesday to 52,306 cases and 737 deaths.

FWCS continues to monitor coronavirus trends in Allen County, Daniel said, noting officials are in regular contact with other school districts and Dr. Matthew Sutter, the county health commissioner. Daniel said FWCS will continue mitigation efforts until there's a significant decrease in cases.

“We will work with our medical experts,” Daniel said. “I have a Ph.D. I do not have an M.D. That's what we'll rely on.”

At a glance

Fully vaccinated Fort Wayne Community Schools students:

12th grade 701 (37%)

11th grade 756 (36%)

10th grade 617 (29%)

9th grade 627 (29%)

Total high school 2,701 (33%)

8th grade 569 (26%)

7th grade 475 (23%)

6th grade 40 (1%)

Total middle school 1,084 (17%)

Total secondary 3,785 (26%)

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