Community Letter 1.17.22
January 17, 2022
This correspondence is written to provide families with a further update to health and safety recommendations in the Maine Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for school districts. Before those changes are outlined, I will take one moment to provide context.
There are two top priorities that the district has held clear since returning to school in September; the safety of students and staff, and keeping our students in school. Ongoing planning has, and will, continue to focus on those two priorities.
As students and staff returned to school from December break we have seen a spike in positive cases across all three towns. The community spike is reflected in our school settings. This is not just the case in our three towns, but throughout New England and the United States. While this was anticipated, it does show the need for the school community to remain vigilant.
Districts across Maine and the Country are managing the spike in cases in various ways. As stated above, here at Noble, our goal is to keep our students in school. Data shows the importance and benefits of students being in school and their connection with peers and staff. The Maine CDC has recently stated their concern was not just related to the impact of COVID in schools but equally, the social/emotional well being of students. All staff across the district are working toward that goal. On that same note, please be aware that there may be negative factors which may force our district to consider moving to a remote plan for a short period of time. The most impactful of those factors include a high percentage of positive COVID cases and how that affects a school district’s ability to meet the health, safety, and learning needs of students. An example of this already occurred in the district. In late November, Lebanon Elementary School and Hanson School needed to spend an additional three days participating in remote learning and they seamlessly returned to in person learning the following week.
That is the context, now here is a summary of the further changes to the Maine Department of Education Standard Operating Procedure for managing COVID 19:
The Maine CDC has determined these three factors to be exacerbating COVID:
The Omicron variant is much more contagious than prior variants.
Omicron has a shorter incubation period, and tends to spread in the early part of infection.
Omicron is contributing to higher levels of community transmission, making community exposures more frequent and, consequently reducing the effectiveness of contact tracing in schools.
For the near future, we are going to suspend contact tracing at MSAD #60 as stated in the revised SOP. We ask that families continue to monitor their child’s health daily and not send your children to school if they are experiencing symptoms of illness.
Mask breaks must be outside. Masks may be removed indoors if students are eating or drinking.
Staff and students who have tested positive for COVID 19 may return to school after 5 days if their symptoms are resolving. If a person elects to return to school 5 full days after a positive test, they will be required by the Maine CDC to wear a mask both inside and outside for an additional 5 days. In addition, students and staff returning after only 5 days must remain socially distanced from their peers by at least 6 feet while eating for an additional 5 days. That includes snack time, breakfast, and lunch. While I understand the rationale behind this change, we have challenges in the buildings to keep everyone 6 feet apart while eating. I am concerned about how students returning from quarantine may feel singled out during breakfast, snack, and lunch times as they remain distanced from friends and classmates. Due to planning and logistical challenges and the uniqueness of each building, this change to food consumption across the district fully takes effect January 24, 2022.
Parents who decide to keep their child home for the full 10 days may do so and it will be reported as a fully excused absence. If you would like to have your child return after 5 days please be aware that we are required to socially distance them from their peers while eating and they will be required to wear a mask inside and outside (this includes recess).
In closing, thank you for your continued vigilance in daily screening and monitoring your child for symptoms of illness. The staff of MSAD #60 is working very hard to balance many factors of this pandemic each and every day. We understand that there are many challenges faced by families and appreciate the continued support.
Superintendent of Schools