Dear Parents and Family,
We are finishing our second full week of school and I have already had to change my expectations of how this school year might look. It has been hard to predict and hard to plan. At the end of May, and moving through the summer, I had great hopes that the 2021-2022 would look like a regular school year without the isolations, quarantines, masks, etc.
We have had positive cases in each of our buildings this week. We have had a couple of positives in the elementary and the high school. We have had a couple on our 5th and 6th grade side of the middle school and many on our 7th and 8th grade side. The disparity in cases across the district is the reason that we were very specific with masks for a certain age group for a certain time. I know that there are some in our community that wish all would be masked and I know that there are some in our community that wish that we wouldn’t mask regardless of circumstances. As a parent myself, I know that there is nothing more important than our own children, so I understand why these feelings are so strong about masks or no masks. This will end at some point. I hope that when it does all of our relationships are still intact. I hope that all in our community will come through this with grace towards one another.
We have had staff in each building that have been affected through positives themselves or they’ve quarantined due to a close contact testing positive. This has caused us to have to find substitutes for teachers, paras, and other support staff areas. I am extremely grateful to those that have been substitutes or our regular staff that has stepped in to cover other people’s duties.
I want to help you as our school community understand that this year may look more like last year than any of us would like it to. We have already experienced a shortage of substitute support staff and have had to ask other staff to cover the most pressing priorities. We have seen our food orders not be completed due to unavailability of the product or drivers. This forces us to change our menu. We have masks required in one section of our school district. We have students that are at home – doing remote learning – which is hard on them, their family, and their teachers who are trying to support two different learning platforms.
A concern that many educators across the state have at this point is the lack of information that we are able to get compared to last year. We are relying on data within our buildings and district. I do check a county data tracker on the CDC site, but am not able to get actual numbers. We are communicating with Public Health Solutions and our local medical experts, but we don’t get a data dashboard, a county risk dial, numbers of positives, and total tested as we had in the past.
The principals and I met this morning with representatives from Fillmore County Hospital and the Clinic to review protocols for positive cases, rules and guidelines on quarantines, and other ways that we can work together to do the best job of safely keeping students in school. This is our focus and I know that it is all of yours as well.
Here are the important things to know:
Isolation: A student or staff that test positive need to be isolated for 10 days – they can’t be at school.
Quarantine: For close contacts with someone that is positive and the 48 hours prior to that
person showing symptoms. Close contact or high risk exposure is defined as being within 6 feet of a positive case for 15 minutes or longer during a 24 hour period. The important part of quarantine is that the quarantine period restarts each time they have high risk exposure to the positive case. For example, someone in the family tests positive and so all other members of the family begin their quarantine period. If the positive person should have close contact with someone in the family three days later – that person’s quarantine days begin again and it is 14 days past that new exposure. This makes it difficult, but not impossible, in a home. The key is truly having the person with COVID away from the other members of the family if possible.
Quarantine for someone that is fully Vaccinated: The student or staff should mask for 14 days past their last exposure, but may be at school as long as they do not develop symptoms. At day five they can test and if negative they would be able to be at school without a mask. If they don’t test then they would continue wearing the mask for the full 14 days.
Quarantine for someone that is Unvaccinated: They should quarantine for 10 days past the last exposure, self-monitor, and wear a mask through day 14 past the last exposure. They can test on day 5, and if negative can end the quarantine and return to school on day 8, self-monitoring and wearing a mask until day 14.
After meeting with our Hospital and Clinic staff this morning and reviewing our internal COVID Data as a team, I believe that we are a medium yellow in most of our grades and a red in our 7th and 8th grade on our own district risk dial. This isn’t scientific, I can’t provide you with statistical analysis, but I can tell you that we have seen cases throughout our district and have quite a few students in quarantine at this time. Due to this increasing number we may not be able to alert you each time there is a new positive case in your child’s school or class(es).
Since this is the case, I want to strongly recommend that you have your child wear a mask at school when they aren’t able to social distance. I realize this is much easier for an older student to know when it is appropriate to remove their mask vs. one of our earlier elementary students.
We are trying to keep kids in school safely. This week we began increasing our protocols in the buildings to attempt to help mitigate risk. I don’t want them to miss out on learning or their activities. I think that they did a great job last year in making sure that they were able to do many of the things they had hoped. I appreciate the partnership and grace many of you have shown us last year and already this year.
We will get through this together – I think we all want many of the same things!