January 31, 2022
The Board of Directors reviewed and made changes to the District’s Health and Safety Plan on January 31st, 2022. See below for an overview of the changes. As a reminder, you can visit our website to view the COVID-19 dashboard, a copy of the approved Health and Safety Plan, copies of all of the previous correspondences that were sent this year, as well as other information pertaining to the pandemic. The goal of this letter is to communicate with our families regarding the updates in the plan made by the Board of Directors. It is our belief that the changes fall within compliance with CDC/DOH recommendations and guidelines. Please know we are all doing our best to navigate us through these difficult times, and your continued grace and compassion are greatly needed and appreciated.
Recently there was some confusion regarding the dashboard and the 5% guideline issued by the Department of Health (DOH). There is no requirement to close at 5%; rather, it is a strong recommendation issued by the DOH to schools. To preserve safe in-person learning to the greatest extent possible, DOH staff works with schools to determine if a closure is necessary and, if so, the appropriate closure length, with a maximum 14-day recommendation for full incubation period. A maximum 14-day suspension of in-person learning may be recommended by DOH if a 5% threshold is reached.
As you know, we closed Horace Mann Elementary on Friday, January 14 through Tuesday, January 18. Additionally, we used that same weekend to close the rest of the District to help mitigate the spread by enacting a four-day closure (Saturday - Tuesday). Thus, we did indeed respond and close in alignment with our health and safety plan. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, schools should consult with the DOH to determine if a recommendation for a maximum 14-day suspension of in-person learning is appropriate. DOH and PDE support the continuation of in-person learning and will limit closure recommendations when possible. Recommendations for 1 to 2-day closures may be provided by the DOH when schools need additional time to identify, notify and exclude close contacts. Longer closures may be recommended for an entire school or specific cohort (e.g., an entire grade) when the large numbers of cases or close contacts present logistical and safety concerns. The decision to close for any length of time remains a local decision. Schools may use other criteria to determine if a suspension of in-person learning is necessary for their local school community. The District worked with the DOH to make the decision to close, and it was supported by them due to the fact we were in the “substantial/high” category and universal masking was being applied at that time. Thus, we adhered to their guidelines while still being able to maintain in-person learning.
Universal Masking Based on Number of Active Cases in the District
If/when the District reaches a “substantial” rating (due to the number of active school cases) as per the COVID-19 dashboard, school populations will be required to wear masks for a minimum of 5 school days regardless of vaccination status. Universal masking will be required until the number of cases returns to the “moderate” or “low” level as indicated on our dashboard. Your assistance and cooperation are greatly needed as we all realize how stressed out we are with this very topic.
On the dashboard, the “high” category will represent 5% of the total cases in each building. The District will use a 10-day rolling average when identifying the 5% infection rate. Your child’s principal will communicate with you if/when masking is required based on the number of active cases. This (universal masking) has been a part of our Health and Safety Plan since its approval in July.
Positive Cases - DOH Changes
In alignment with the CDC and DOH recommendations, students/staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for 5 days at home (date of initial symptoms is Day 0) and can return to school on Day 6 and wear a properly fitted mask on Days 6-10, provided they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving with no fever for at least 24 hours without medication. Staff and students who have submitted a mask exemption or who refuse to wear a mask must quarantine at home until after Day 10.
Exposures - Home and School
The Board of Directors, in efforts to maximize in-person learning, has made the decision to treat home and school exposures the same regarding asymptomatic staff and students. Effective February 1st, asymptomatic staff/students who are exposed (home or school), regardless of vaccination or masking status, may remain in the classroom environment if they do the following:
- Wear a mask for 10 days after their last date of exposure.
- Students and staff, if they choose, may take a COVID test through the District’s in-house testing program. Electronic parent consent is required prior to any testing.
- Self-monitor or parent-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
- Isolate and get tested if they start to experience symptoms associated with COVID-19, regardless of severity.
- Note that the last day of exposure is considered Day 0, and this timeline is irrespective of when the close contact is identified.
In closing, I encourage you to reach out to your building principal or my office to discuss the matter further if you have any questions or concerns regarding the updated plan. We will get through this together.
Mr. Michael J. Vuckovich