Dear Zizzer Families,
We are so excited to welcome everyone back to school on Monday. This week our faculty and staff have been busy preparing and planning for our students to return. Our open houses and back-to-school events have been extremely successful.
Last year, the week prior to Labor Day, approximately 140 students were quarantined on one day at the secondary level. Unfortunately, the students were out of school for a minimum of ten days. This was our first experience with the quarantine process. We were able to switch our mode of instruction to hybrid learning quickly but we are not able to do that this year. We do not have the option to shut down for two weeks if we have a large number of students that are quarantined.
During the first month of school, we were forced to shut down elementary classrooms due to quarantines. In total, we had approximately 1,070 students in quarantine at some point during the year. Some of these quarantines were the result of being exposed to a positive case outside of the school day. As a district, we cannot control this type of exposure, but we can control exposure within our buildings.
Board Policy EBB, Communicable Diseases: requires that the district follow state and local law or the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) regulations regarding the control of the disease. To control the spread of COVID19, the local health department will quarantine community members if they are deemed to be a close contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID 19. The district will follow the guidance of the health department in respect to quarantines.
There is an exception to the quarantine rules.
Exception: In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time.
With this being said, a student will not have to be quarantined if they are exposed to another student AT SCHOOL that has tested positive for COVID 19 if they are both wearing masks. Remember, we cannot guarantee social distancing in every classroom.
Some have asked why the district is not requiring masks at after school events. At most events or activities after school, the community and students have an option of being in attendance. It is optional.
Some have stated masking is a recommendation, not a mandate. And to this, I do agree. If there is no applicable order or ordinance in effect, the district is free to determine if masks should be worn in our schools. But if there was a large outbreak at our school, the local health department could issue a closure order. And as stated above, a student will not have to be quarantined if they are exposed to another student AT SCHOOL that has tested positive for COVID 19 if they are both wearing masks. This avoids a student being absent from school for 10 days.
Currently, it is a federal mandate to wear masks on all forms of public transportation. This includes school transportation.
As a district, we are not taking a stand on the efficacy of masking. We are taking a stand on what it takes to keep students in school. How do we keep students in the class with teachers? As of this point in time, it is masking.
Each month, I will present to the board information on the number of students quarantined from an in-school exposure and a community exposure. As stated in our Return to Instruction and Continuity of Learning plan, we will amend our mitigation strategies as needed.
Attached, you will find two documents. One is from the Howell County Health Department, and the other is the district 2021-2022 district COVID-19 protocols with the updated masking procedures. We look forward to a great year of learning. Thank you for your support.
Dr. Lori Wilson
Superintendent of Schools