August 31, 2021
The 2021-2022 school year is well underway, and it has been great to have our students back in the classrooms and to watch our teachers and staff doing what they love, working with your children. Our plan as a district has been and continues to be focused on keeping our students and staff in a safe, in-person learning environment.
As we began the school year, we aimed to put some of the COVID-19 stresses behind us. We also knew we had to be prepared to adjust our safety protocols should additional concerns emerge. For example, we initially wanted our families to have the individual choice on whether their child should wear a mask at school. However, as the COVID-19 Delta variant began to spread, our procedures and practices for masks in our PreK-6 buildings had to be adjusted to protect in-person instruction and to keep these environments safe for students. We understand this change created frustration for some of our families.
Looking at our building data from last week, 81% of our positive cases, identified by Greene County Public Health (GCPH) as spread within the school setting, are coming from grades 7-12. Although there are quarantines in our elementary schools, last week's data showed that a positive case in a grade level that does not require masks results in approximately twice as many quarantines. Therefore, to ensure we are continuing to achieve our goal of continued safe in-person instruction, it has been determined that our best approach, at this time, is to require masks for all PreK-12 students, staff, and visitors inside all district buildings.
We have parents on both sides of the mask debate. We truly value and respect the perspectives of all of our families. However, with the recent number of positive cases in our buildings, coupled with the staggering number of quarantines, we are struggling to keep all of our students in school due to quarantine procedures and positive cases. Since the start of this school year, our weekly positive case count has exceeded any previous week from last school year. When positive cases occur, the district must collaborate with GCPH to identify students who have been exposed to a positive person. Ultimately, this is resulting in high quarantine numbers, especially in our secondary schools.
When determining whether a student is unable to come to school due to quarantine, we are required to follow the Guidelines for Quarantine After Exposure in K-12 Classroom Settings, published by GCPH. Under these guidelines, if a student or staff member is exposed to a positive person, quarantine may NOT be necessary if the student or staff member was wearing a mask at the time of exposure, regardless of vaccination status. We believe requiring masks for all students will result in less quarantines and allow us to continue our in-person instruction.
Students who are unable to safely wear a mask due to disability or who may qualify for an approved exemption should contact their building principal to obtain the necessary exemption form. Exemptions only apply to the requirement to wear a mask, it does not exempt the student from the impact of quarantine. This exemption does not apply to school transportation. Exemptions for school transportation must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act criteria. If you believe your child is eligible for a mask exemption you may send them to school without a mask through Friday, September 3. Beginning Tuesday, September 7 mask exemption forms must be in place for eligible students.
Recently, some districts have adjusted their education delivery model to remote or hybrid instruction. We are hopeful that we will not have to resort to changing our instructional delivery model. We want to do everything we can to keep our students healthy and in front of our staff daily. Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we continue to monitor the impact of this pandemic, adjusting our protocols and procedures as necessary.