3/19 Message from Mr. McKay regarding updated CDC guidelines

Melissa Fullerton
By Melissa Fullerton March 19, 2021 15:12

Hello Governor Mifflin families,

Today, we saw another hopeful sign of brighter days ahead as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eased distancing guidelines for schools. The headlines read that the change reduces distancing in schools from six feet to three feet. However, as I read through the guidance, there are some key points that are especially pertinent to consider for Governor Mifflin.

First, I want to assure you that each week, we are working on and revising plans for a full return for our middle and high schools. Since the start of the school year, we have weighed heavily our responsibility for the health and safety of our students and staff against our instructional model and we continue to do so. While the CDC guidelines have been revised to say that students can now sit as close as three-feet apart while wearing masks, the following is equally as important:

  • In elementary schools, CDC recommends all students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal — regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high.
  • Middle school students and high school students should be at least 6 feet apart in communities where transmission is high, if cohorting is not possible. Cohorting is when groups of students are kept together with the same peers and staff throughout the school day to reduce the risk for spread throughout the school. This recommendation is because COVID-19 transmission dynamics are different in older students – that is, they are more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and spread it than younger children.

Berks County is currently categorized as substantial transmission, which is the highest transmission level as measured by PA’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard. Our current hybrid model provides the cohorting described in the CDC guidelines and the return of our seniors to the high school on Monday will keep our building counts low enough to maintain the six-foot distancing recommended while we remain within the highest level of transmission.

It is also noteworthy that the new CDC guidelines maintain that six-feet of distancing is still recommended in the following scenarios:

  • Between adults in the school building and between adults and students.
  • In common areas, such as school lobbies and auditoriums.
  • When masks can’t be worn, such as when eating.
  • During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, sports, or exercise. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.
  • In community settings outside of the classroom.

In the event of a full return, especially at the high school level, the items listed above, particularly lunch, present a challenge, but are not a limiting factor for us. As noted previously, our staff is actively planning for a full return and have already mapped out a lunch plan that includes utilizing desks in our cafeteria, bleachers, and outdoor space, when possible.

I understand that as we see restrictions loosen and more and more indicators of a return to “normalcy,” there is an excitement to move quickly in that direction. However, I want to reassure you that we have not wavered in our commitment to the safety or the education of our students. In the 2021 State of Education report released last week, we learned that Governor Mifflin was one of only about a third of Pennsylvania school districts that opened in August with a five-day instructional model for PK-12. Since then, we have done our best to keep our students in school as much as possible. Over the past several months, if we have seen case counts near the threshold for closure at a school, our maintenance and custodial staff have performed proactive deep cleanings to help prevent intermittent closures. To date, our staff has completed eight preventative, full-building cleanings, four of which have occurred over weekends to ensure a return to school the following week. Today, our secondary teachers prepared for a new streaming instructional model that will eliminate our asynchronous work at the secondary level and increase live instructional time during our secondary hybrid day. We will debut that new model and welcome our seniors to return full time on Monday.

We will continue to look forward to a full in-person return for our students, but we will do so in the same manner we have approached this year, by following guidelines and putting the health and safety of our students and staff at the forefront.

Sincerely,

Bill McKay
Superintendent
Governor Mifflin School District

Melissa Fullerton
By Melissa Fullerton March 19, 2021 15:12