Dec. 1-4: Virtual instruction at all GM schools

Melissa Fullerton
By Melissa Fullerton November 18, 2020 17:19

Hello Governor Mifflin families,

I am writing to make you aware that our district leaders have made the decision to move to virtual instructional December 1-4. As per our original district calendar, there is no school November 23-30. In-person instruction is scheduled to resume on Monday, December 7. This temporary suspension of our in-person learning model is a proactive response to the current state of case counts and quarantining measures that have strained our ability to provide a full complement of staffing in our schools.

Since we opened in August, our district has recorded and reported to you a total of 27 positive COVID-19 cases within our buildings. As a result of those cases and following contact tracing procedures, we have quarantined and excluded from school more than 200 staff members and students. An additional 480 students and staff have been quarantined or received notices to remain off campus due to potential COVID exposure within their homes or other out-of-school contact. With case numbers sharply on the rise locally and nationally these past few weeks, there has been added strain to our staffing abilities due to quarantine requirements. For that reason, we are taking the measured and deliberate action to intermittently move to virtual learning during the week of December 1. We hope that this additional time will allow for the end of quarantine cycles and help restore our staffing numbers.

In making this decision for an intermittent move to virtual learning, our district leaders also considered an extended virtual learning period that would begin December 1 and continue through January 8. This would provide a significant buffer of time around this holiday season that is projected to show record-breaking COVID cases nationwide. While our administrators were unanimously opposed to this extended closure, it should be understood that our ability to resume in-person instruction on December 7 relies heavily on each of us taking responsibility for our behaviors and actions now and throughout the next few months. This means wearing masks, physical distancing, and abiding by health and safety guidance, including at-home health screenings and following the updated travel reporting detailed later in this message.

One of the crucial pieces of information that we consider in our ability to maintain in-person instruction is whether the cases within our schools are linked, which would indicate spread occurring within our walls. So far, we have not seen transmission within our schools and we continue to see that the positive cases impacting our buildings have originated outside of the school setting. It is crucial that every person take seriously their individual responsibility to the larger community to adjust behaviors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Here are key pieces of information as we plan for virtual instruction December 1-4 and moving into the winter months:

Instruction
In the coming days, each building principal will follow up with specific details regarding online instruction and schedules for December 1-4. Devices and materials will be sent home with students this week in preparation for virtual instruction.

Reporting Travel
This week, the PA Department of Health announced changes in the requirements for returning to Pennsylvania from interstate travel beginning November 20, 2020. These requirements include:

  • Travelers entering/re-entering Pennsylvania from other states or international travel must quarantine for 14 days

OR

  • Have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering/re-entering Pennsylvania

Unlike previous Department of Health recommendations, this is now a requirement.
Therefore, all GMSD students/families travelling out of state or country should comply. Please continue to complete the standard District Trip Request Form for any planned travel when school is in session. If school is not in session, please report any out-of-state travel to Mr. Dave Argentati, Director of Pupil Services (610-775-1461 x. 1307) in advance of all travel.

Reporting COVID-19 cases while we are in virtual instruction
We will be providing designated contact information for families to continue to report positive COVID-19 cases and potential exposure during the holiday break and subsequent virtual instruction. It is imperative that families continue to share this information even when school is not in session to ensure that we continue to follow the proper quarantine guidelines.

Preparedness
Since the beginning of this school year, we have recognized and tried to convey that intermittent closure is a possibility. Whether we have cause to close a school or a need to quarantine or exclude individual students from in-person learning due to potential close contact to a positive COVID case, we must be prepared for this reality and I urge you to use this opportunity to make an alternative plan for your family.

For planning purposes on the part of your child’s school, you may see your students come home with devices or supplies that they don’t typically transport back and forth. Please understand that if that is the case, it is not an immediate hint or indication that school will be closed. In most scenarios, this action is a proactive measure on the part of your child’s teacher or school building as we work to help your student get into the habit of preparedness.

Communication
Communication and transparency are an important part of our district’s health and safety plan. We have and will continue to report each of the positive cases on our campus as we believe this information is important to you, especially in a year when we have provided families options between in-person or online learning. In an effort to give you a more complete look at our case numbers, we will begin using a dashboard-style reporting tool that can be accessed on the COVID-19 Information page on our district website at any time. You will still receive a Skylert email when we have a new positive case on campus. That email will refer you to the COVID-19 dashboard for additional information.

Our safety measures are grounded in our prevention, not our reaction. Our ability to keep our kids in school, which is where we very much want them to be, lies in the preventative actions we take now and not in the form of a public outcry when the outside circumstances force us to change course. We understand closing schools has an incredible impact on our students and your household. We ask you to join with us in wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and making choices that align with our shared goal to keep our schools open.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steve Gerhard
Superintendent
Governor Mifflin School District

Melissa Fullerton
By Melissa Fullerton November 18, 2020 17:19