Dear Staff, Students, and Families,
I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I am writing to let you know that the School Board unanimously voted last evening to make masks optional for students and staff beginning on 3/14/22 in school and on our buses. This is in response to the District Planning Committee recommending this change based upon the recent MCDC determination that masks would no longer be recommended for schools as of 3/9/22, but instead should become optional and thus a family decision. This decision by the DPC and the School Board was also buoyed by our very low school Covid positivity rate since early February (fluctuating between .1% - .5%). In fact, the week after vacation we had just three cases and this week we have had just one so far.
Why Wait Until Monday for this Significant Change?
- We want to do this well, with enough time for students, families, & staff to process the change and start fresh on a Monday (similar approach to other districts)
- Students and staff have not been in school without a mask on for two years and many students have not ever been in their current school without a mask on besides when eating lunch
- Staff PD on Friday 3/11/22 provides that opportunity for staff to process & prepare
- Also, the MDOE SOP just came out last evening & we need time to process any implications
- Only exception will be to allow the One Act Play Actors on Stage on 3/8 & 3/9 & any athletes in playoffs or all star games if the venue & the MPA allows to be mask optional before 3/14/22
- Every student & staff member will be supported for their mask choice. Any negative comments/harassment will not be tolerated.
- School counselors, social workers, and administrators are guiding staff on how to support all students and each other through this change.
- I explained to the School Board last evening that although staff will try to help support the family choice on masking, we cannot possibly keep constant track of 1500+ family choices on masks. I encourage families to have those conversations with their own children about their expectations regarding wearing masks while at school.
- We will continue with social distancing when feasible, while also increasing opportunities for peer interactions
- We ask that we continue to stay home when sick
- We ask that you continue to take part in Pooled Testing (1400+ signed up) and please consider signing up for it if you have not already as we will we will continue monitoring w/ pooled testing, case numbers, absentee rate
- If we see a greater than 1.5% positivity rate in a school or the district and/or an absentee rate approaching 15% I will call for an immediate DPC meeting to assess the situation & potentially but not necessarily make updated recommendations to the School Board
- Finally, we will adjust with any MCDC recommendations in the future. This remains a fluid situation as new variants may emerge
In closing, what an arduous and at times inspiring journey we have been on individually and collectively for these two long years. Each of us have had to navigate the challenges of this pandemic personally and professionally and some of us have lost dear friends and relatives along the way. This has not been easy for any of us and I just want to express my gratitude and thanks to all of you for supporting your children, your students, yourself, and our school system through this difficult time. Brighter days are definitely ahead, but I certainly know the shift in masking requirements will be celebrated by some and cause anxiety for others. Let’s remember to continue to support one another through this change even if we may disagree with one another.
Chris Record, Ph.D.