Dear Parents, Faculty and Staff,
Happy Friday to All. As we enter into the weekend, I’ve been asked by a number of parents and staff if we are going to close a building or the District due to the positive COVID cases we have experienced. The answer is not as simple as it may seem on the surface or in comparison to other Capital Region school districts.
Since I wrote to you earlier in the week we have no new COVID positive cases, so our total positive cases remain at four, with three being related to one another, stemming from close contact outside of school. Our numbers of students and staff quarantined have increased as a result of the fourth case, so we have approximately 40 students and staff out at the moment. Part of this is due to DOH-ordered quarantines and some is due to the District demonstrating an abundance of caution by keeping some students and staff out beyond what is mandated by the DOH.
There are two situations to consider in such cases. One situation is where someone is symptomatic, but has not been diagnosed as COVID positive. In such cases, the individual needs to stay home and follow the protocols for reentry to school. In this case the DOH is not quarantining the family members of the symptomatic individual and neither is the District. These situations happen frequently as the symptoms of COVID can be very similar to symptoms of other illnesses. The vast majority of the time the individual then tests negative for COVID and is allowed to return to work or school as their symptoms resolve. In these cases, there are no additional quarantines needed.
The second situation involves an actual positive test. In this case the DOH will do contact tracing. In these cases the DOH does not quarantine the “contact of a contact.” In other words, if a student is designated to be officially quarantined by DOH, the quarantined student’s siblings or parents would typically not be quarantined by DOH. These siblings and parents are referred to as “contacts of a contact.” This is where the District goes a step further than the DOH and has the members of the household of the contact stay home. This is currently the case for a number of students and staff at Mohonasen. In short, we are erring on the side of caution in such situations as we do not wish there to be an outbreak. It may be counterintuitive, but we are being more careful than required by the DOH in order that we can continue to keep in-person learning for as many students as possible for as long as possible.
With those things being said, there is still the question of what would make us close a building or the District and how close are we to that right now? We are hoping that our extra careful approach will prevent the spread of COVID and that we will not have further positive cases, but should that occur, then the DOH, working with the District, will conduct contact tracing and then they will recommend we either continue with our current model or whether we need to quarantine additional students or staff or whether we temporarily close a building or the entire District and go all remote.
Currently the three High School cases are related and don’t appear to represent any weakness in our safety protocols at school. The Draper case has not been tracked to a point of origin, meaning we don’t know whether the person contracted COVID while at school or while at home. I suspect that if the Draper case continues to escalate/spread that the DOH will likely recommend at least Draper go all virtual for a period of time and perhaps Draper and the High School and maybe, due to the connections of families at different levels, they would recommend closing the District to in-person learning for a period of time. And yet, if there were additional Draper cases that could be linked to an out-of-school origin, like at the High School, the DOH might only quarantine additional students or staff and not recommend further action.
So after a somewhat lengthy explanation, the short answer is that I do not know when/if we will engage in shutdowns and there is no specific threshold or number of cases that would trigger such a response. What I can say with certainty is that we will continue our strict adherence to our reopening plan guidelines and our safety protocols and we will adjust accordingly should our situation change.
With Election Day almost upon us, I encourage all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote.
Yours in Service,