October 22, 2020
Good evening Howland families and students,
After reviewing results from our family surveys and assessing the efficacy of our COVID-19 safety procedures and mitigation measures during the first quarter of school, Cohorts A & B will be combined beginning Monday, November 9, 2020. Students in both Cohorts A & B will be attending school on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will remain a remote learning day for all students.
Below you will find the results from our family survey, which indicate approximately 70% of our families have confidence in our COVID mitigation measures and support combining both cohorts with the understanding that the school restart plan includes the flexibility to change between 2-day hybrid, 4-day hybrid or full-time remote should conditions change or we receive directives from the state or local health department. Because of that flexibility, we want to remind parents of the importance of having childcare arrangements readily available should a change to the 4-day hybrid schedule need to occur.
Although we may see increases in COVID-19 cases in the community, information continues to show that “prepared” schools across the state and country have not seen the same increases within their walls - including schools that started under full-time models. In fact, the couple of cases we have seen in our schools have not originated from or spread in our schools, and are disproportionate to the number of cases within our community. This is due to the effective mitigation measures that we have instituted and will continue to increase in response to the additional students that will be attending school on the same days.
We are proud of our students and staff for complying so well to the safety protocols we have in place. It will be this same compliance that will ensure continued effectiveness in keeping our schools safe. Importantly, we want our students, staff, and families to feel confident that we have assessed each building, classroom, and gathering area to plan for the movement of furniture and desks to ensure we are will continue to be compliant with the most recent updates to local health department mitigation recommendations that offer more options that lower risk and still maintain the effectiveness of the mitigation levels in place during the first quarter. In the few areas where 6ft social distance cannot be attained, additional barriers will be in place to continue to lower risk, including cafeterias used in the middle school and high school.
Maximizing the number of days our kids are educated at school is a team effort, and anything our families can do to promote mask use and other COVID precautions outside of school, can significantly help by lowering community spread overall and increase the number of days our students are educated at school each week and through the end of the school year. Although our goal continues to focus on getting our kids back to school full-time, this is the appropriate time and next step to that end. In the interim, we are continually updated by our local and state health departments.
Finally, it can’t be overstated the priority we place on student, staff, and family health and safety. These decisions are not made without rigorous assessments at a number of levels as well as the analysis of all data available to us at any given point in time. It was important to begin the year slowly under a 2-day hybrid model due to the number of unknowns that our students, staff, and families needed to work through and refine effectively. It can be assured that the same careful considerations utilized in our decisions at the beginning of the school year are still intact. We now have additional data points to answer unknown questions that we did not have beforehand, as well as more options for implementing additional mitigation measures and reducing risk. There are challenges and anxieties our students, staff, and families face with any direction we head, but we hope that some comfort levels increase with the knowledge that we have a sound plan in place that appropriately and methodically increases mitigation measures; immediately identifies and addresses suspected cases; maintains practices for compliance; institutes effective disinfecting protocols; and is immediately adaptable to toggle back to a 2-day or full-remote learning model should conditions warrant, or we receive state or local health department directives.
We ask for your continued patience as we move forward to welcome our kids together as we combine both cohorts on November 9, 2020. You will see moderate increases in bus ride times and longer car lines for families transporting children to and from school. Updated bus pick up and drop off times will be posted on the district website the week of October 26. 2020.
Your children are important to us. There is much more information to come, but please feel free to contact your child’s school if you have any questions.
Howland Local Schools Superintendent