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Update from the Covid Response Team
Tonya Arnold
Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Covid Response Team has continued to meet weekly.  We regularly review CDC and DOE updates/notices.  

The daily health screener and return to school documents are updated with input from our consulting physician, nurses and DOE liaison after new changes are released from CDC/DOE.  

We have been collaborating on the new grant programs, ensuring we plan for PPE and enhancements to the hybrid/remote learning activities. For example, we are seeking tutors using grant funds who can meet virtually or in person with students and/or support parents with how to best support academic practice. 

We all recognize that it is best to have students in school as many days per week as possible. To that end, we have been working to plan for the return of as many elementary students as possible to more days of in-classroom instruction.  On November 2, HDES will be bringing Kindergarten students to school 4 days per week.  Over the next week or two, MBES will bring pre-K students to school 4 days per week beginning on November 2, and is working on a plan to increase Kindergarten students up to school 4 days per week as soon as possible.   Given the minimum safety requirements for spacing, DES does not have the space to do this for K or PreK, and MMS does not have the staff for this kind of plan.

Aside from the limitations of classroom spacing requirements and staffing needs, we also have the challenge of student spacing on the bus routes.  If we were to bring all students back 4 days per week, we would have to give all students only half days, making two sets of bus runs.  We believe that plan would be more of a hardship on families who work since mid day bus stop trips would be required by many families.  

If more families were to choose remote only for the remainder of the year and fewer students ride the buses, we may be able to shift more elementary grades to 4 days per week in school.  The other way this could be accomplished is if the physical distancing requirements were to be relaxed by the DOE and/or Governor.

On the opposite end of possibilities, we also need to prepare for the best educational experience for our students in case we need to move to all remote instruction for weeks/months.  School teams are planning routines and establishing common expectations for that mode for instruction should extended remote become necessary.  

The benefit of our current life in the middle is the fact that our current hybrid model allows for smaller groups of students which limits exposure to a positive case.  The impact limit allows larger groups of students to continue attending school when others are quarantining.  The CDC has praised us on our protocols and grouping methods that have minimized the number of students/staff impacted in each of our two contact tracing situations in this district.

Regarding safety, we have contracted with a vendor as well as trained some of our own staff to use sprayers twice a week to disinfect buildings on Tuesday and Friday evening in addition to the routine cleaning and disinfecting that is scheduled daily.

Students and staff are doing an amazing job at following safety protocols, and students are demonstrating kind and responsible behavior.  We are in need of more substitutes in all areas.  Principals and Directors are willing to explain our safety protocols to anyone who is interested in these roles.