- McKenzie County School District #1
9/9 Health and Safety Guidelines and Implementation
Health and Safety Guidelines and Implementation
September 9th, 2021
Return to Instruction and Start of 2021-2022 school year:
The school district started the school year on August 25th and implemented the Return to In-person Instruction and Continuity of Service plan as provided on the website and shared as part of back-to-school messaging to parents as well as the school e-newsletter. The school district essentially started the 2021-2022 school year in much the same way as it ended the 2020-2021 school year with a return to normal distancing in classrooms and academic groupings as dictated by the curriculum at each building level. Building sanitation practices remain in place from last year and emphasis on maintaining common areas and other potential troublesome locations. Students and staff retain the right to use masks in the building at any time and remains optional/recommended pending each family’s individual decisions on health and safety of their student. At the start of the school year, these practices were found to be very consistent with other school districts in the region and across North Dakota.
As of September 9th, 2021; our county and school district are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases. In response to the increase in cases; the following guidelines are in place to address the current situation and school district efforts to maintain student safety in providing educational/extra-curricular offerings. The school district consults with representatives of the McKenzie County Health Systems and Upper Missouri Health Unit on a regular basis in formulating its guidelines and practices.
- Building ventilation: 10% is used as the “typical” minimum set point for the outside air louvers used in all our educational buildings. The school district, to increase ventilation to mitigate viral spread in the buildings, has increased this amount to 25%. Increasing to higher levels may cause issue with the heating and cooling systems and maintaining adequate classroom climates in all areas. This increase should assist to promoting air circulation and is a recommendation by our local health officials.
- Promoting proper hand sanitation with all students and staff: The school district, with its administration, teachers, and school nurses, will increase efforts to promote proper hand sanitation throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer and resources as needed. Each school building has access to appropriate hand sanitizing opportunities and to promote those options effectively within their building schedules. This is reinforced with students through educational opportunities and will be additionally reinforced during surges in cases as witnessed currently in our community.
- Promoting personal hygiene and sanitation with students: The school district will use this situation, in addressing the current surge in COVID-19 cases, to promote proper hygiene and maintaining healthy lifestyles to combat the spread of COVID-19. Students will be educated in the best practices associated with personal hygiene/wellness and reinforced through our curriculum and resource staff available to message these practices to students.
- Vaccinations: Staff and students (eligible by age) are encouraged to receive vaccinations and opportunities were provided last school year through UMHU to provide such vaccinations at our middle and high school buildings. Vaccinations are not required for school attendance, however, families can consider this option in their own health and safety plans and the school district allows time to be taken to receive vaccinations during the school day.
- Student and staff masks: Students and staff masks are optional and recommended for students and staff as needed or deemed appropriate. Mask use during the school day remains optional and a personal family decision, however, the school district encourages this practice for families that choose it and will work with students in the effective use of their masks and mask breaks.
- Distancing: Each school building is continuing its best practices, when applicable, for the maintaining of clusters and cohorts to mitigate students interacting with other student groups when not necessary for educational purposes. Distancing strategies, outside the classroom and educational applications, are maintained as much as possible and still in place during these situations in which cases are increasing and community spread exists.
- Positive case quarantines: The administration and school nurses are sharing recommendations by the NDDoH and CDC to parents for consideration in their individual choices and practices. Positive cases, however, are mandated to isolate for 10 days as per the NDDoH. The school district is enforcing this mandate consistently and working with families regarding positive case quarantines of students and staff. This is a mandate, and not a recommendation, regarding confirmed positive case quarantines.
- Close contact tracing: School districts are no longer mandated to perform close contact tracing as per last school year and this has been delegated back to the NDDoH. The NDDoH no longer communicates close contacts with the school district and all close contact tracing, including household contacts, is a responsibility of each family and not monitored at the school district level. We recommend families follow CDC guidance in cases of close contracts and when recommendations are provided at the state level by the Department of Health. Self-reporting of close contacts will be implemented in compliance with NDDoH recommendations. However, the school district does not see any merit in conducting its own close contact tracing as a mitigation strategy at this time.
- Student attendance: Students are not penalized for attendance related to positive COVID-19 cases or recommended close contacts situations. The school honors all family decisions in following close contact tracing recommendations at the state level or absences related to health and safety. WE CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE ALL SYMPTOMATIC STUDENTS AND STAFF TO REMAIN HOME UNTIL NO SYMPTOMS EXIST. Our school nurses and administration may send students home when exhibiting symptoms in school. Please work with us on keeping sick, symptomatic students at home until they are healthy and ready to return to school. Staff who are symptomatic will be sent home until they no longer exhibit symptoms.
- Distance learning: The school district does not offer a formal distance learning platform (virtual academy) at this time such as provided last school year with the distance learning option and synchronous opportunities. However, students who are quarantined for COVID-19 have the option of bringing their Chromebook home with them and maintaining their academics through Google Classroom to avoid getting behind with their classwork and education. Students, K-12, can bring a device home for extended absences, such as a quarantine, and work with their teachers to keep up with assignments. Make-up work will be accepted as per the student handbooks in each building. Please work with your building administration on these options and helping your student with their education during quarantine periods. Families are encouraged to reach out if resources are not available to your student, such as internet access, or other barriers in maintaining education during quarantines.
- Dashboard: The school district provides the COVID-19 Dashboard, updated each Friday, as on ongoing monitor of COVID-19 cases in each school building. The school district does not communicate positive cases to parents individually or on a classroom by classroom basis. We respect the privacy of families by maintaining this broad communication of cases. To this point, the school district has yet to witness specific spread within our buildings that would warrant higher levels of individual communication. The current cases appear to represent the community spread occurring at this time and is primarily linked to household contacts and spread to this point.
- Testing: The school district is currently not participating in testing at the building levels for students or staff. COVID-19 tests are readily available in our community and the need for building level testing has not been justified at this point by our administration or school nurses.
- Communication: Please be reminded the school district administration is here to address your questions and to have discussions with anyone regarding the health and safety of students. We realize this situation can be very personal involving student health and safety; we look to accommodate as many concerns as possible, but also realize we cannot meet everyone’s expectations at this time. We respect individual opinions and will work with individual families with concerns and in ways that fit within our guidelines and responsibilities. Please communicate with the superintendent or building level administration with concerns to see if we can accommodate student needs.
The school district is committed to monitoring all situations as needed regarding COVID-19 and health and safety, in general, and working with our local health officials to keep our students and community safe. Adjustments to this plan status can be made with administration recommendations to the school board and as noted and monitored by our school nurses and resource team. We ask for family cooperation as we work during these times and the school district will attempt to communicate as much as possible when changes outside of this current status occur. We are ready to work with our local city and county as changes occur and with any mitigation efforts that are enforced at those levels.
Thank you for your cooperation and support of the school district in addressing the current COVID-19 situation.
Dr. Steven Holen
Superintendent of Schools
McKenzie County Public School District #1