Mount Vernon Community School District Families, Staff Members, and Community Members:
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reduced the recommended time for isolation and quarantine periods for schools related to COVID-19. The CDC adjusted the isolation and quarantine time to five days from the previous guidance of ten days. The CDC believes students benefit most from in-person learning, and is supporting a series of strategies to ensure students can return to the classroom as quickly as possible while being as safe as possible. If students return to school after five days, the expectation is that they wear a mask during days 6-10 to ensure they do not pass on the virus to others while remaining safe themselves. This includes wearing masks while engaged in activities, including sports, as well as in the classroom. In addition to quarantining when testing positive for COVID-19 or being in close contact with those who test positive for COVID-19, the CDC continues to recommend getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and maintaining social distancing whenever possible. Students also need to be symptom free and fever free for 24 hours before returning to the school environment. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has come out in support of these new guidelines.
Since the CDC released its new guidance last week, school districts across the nation have studied their ability to implement these new guidelines safely. After much consideration, the Mount Vernon Community School District has decided to adopt the new CDC guidelines beginning immediately. This decision was just made in the last twenty four hours, and I apologize if you have received contradictory guidance from us in the last few days.
For these new guidelines to work as outlined by the CDC, the guidelines must be followed with fidelity. If you choose to have your child return after five days, you need to have your child wear a mask for days 6-10. You are also welcome to keep your child home for the full ten days if you feel that is the safest option for them. If you are going to decline to have your child wear a mask for days 6-10, you must keep your child at home for the entire ten days. If you send your child to school unmasked in the 6-10 day time frame, we will contact you to pick up your child and return home until the 10 day mark has been reached. Exemptions that were accepted during the PK-6 mandate earlier this year will not be in effect for this short term requirement to wear a mask. Your child may be exempt from wearing a mask if you can produce a negative COVID-19 test result that is processed by a lab (not an at-home test).
I also want to remind everyone that the wearing of masks is still required on all school transportation. Please remind your children of this, and provide them with an adequate number of masks to meet this requirement. Again, this is based on a federal guideline that applies to all public transportation, including school district transportation.
Due to the current high volume of cases, Linn County Public Health is no longer completing contact tracing investigations. Therefore, we are no longer sending notification emails to the school community when a positive COVID-19 case is identified. As always, if you have any questions about a possible close contact for your child, please contact the schools.
We are keeping a close eye on our case numbers, as they have risen early this week after a fairly quiet week last week. We also are keeping a close eye on the staff absence numbers, as that is a key factor in being able to offer all our programs at high levels which is our goal and expectation. Please see below our COVID-19 data from last week and the first two days of this week in context of the 2% absence due to COVID-19, and 8% absence due to illness that may lead to a temporary mask mandate in a specific building should those metrics be reached. Case numbers in the Mount Vernon community have reached their highest point since we started tracking the data, and we will continue to monitor all pertinent data to make decisions.
Most every decision made during the pandemic is open to scrutiny, and likely will make someone unhappy. I know you are tired of the battle with the pandemic. I know all of us want to move forward as if COVID-19 is not a part of our lives. Wearing a mask for days 6-10 allows our students to get back into school more quickly, where they then can learn and be involved in school activities. I think it is reasonable for students to wear masks for five days to be able to engage in learning and extracurricular activities they otherwise would miss if we were still following the ten day quarantine guideline. If we cannot implement the new guidelines with fidelity, we will need to consider a return to the previous ten day quarantine guidelines.
Thanks again for your support and understanding!