COVID-19 Update from Acting Superintendent Whitworth

COVID-19 Update from Acting Superintendent Whitworth

Dear Monroe School District staff & families,

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is highly contagious and just like other school districts in the state and nation, we are experiencing an incredible increase in the number of cases in our schools. The most important thing we all can do to keep this from spreading further in our schools is to stay home if you have ANY symptoms.

Additional ways we can all help support the health and safety of students and staff include:

  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Continue to wash your hands regularly
  • Wear masks properly
  • Maintain social distance from others
  • Get vaccinated, including a booster shot

With the evolving situation regarding the COVID Omicron variant, I wanted to update you on some important changes in COVID guidance from the Department of Health (DOH) and to prepare you in case a classroom or school needs to be closed due to COVID cases or staff absences due to illness.


Changes in COVID Guidance

On Friday, January 7, the Department of Health (DOH) updated isolation and quarantine recommendations for K-12 schools. The new recommendations align with updated CDC guidelines. At this time, we, along with many other school districts, are working to gain clarity on some of the new updates and are awaiting clear answers to questions from the Snohomish Health District and DOH.

DOH has stated that they will be releasing updated flow charts for return to school and work in the next few days and we will make those available to staff and families as soon as they are posted. In the meantime, schools will be working directly with families that have students identified as close contacts and/or have tested positive for COVID to determine when they can return.


COVID Communication Update

When we have learned of a COVID positive individual at school, our communication procedure has been to personally call families of identified close contacts and to send a follow up email to those families. We have then followed that with a generic email to all staff and families in that school to let them know there has been a COVID positive individual at school, but they/their student has not been identified as a close contact. Due to the increase in COVID cases throughout our county and in our schools, we anticipate there will likely be COVID cases in our schools every day for the time being. Because of this, we will no longer be sending a daily generic email to every single school. Instead, we will be focusing our effort on continuing to communicate directly with the increasing number of close contacts. We will also continue to update the COVID Activity Tracker on our website every Friday afternoon. The most up-to-date version can be found here.


How will the district decide whether to change to remote learning?

The decision to transition a classroom or an entire school to remote learning is based upon guidance from the DOH, Snohomish Health District or the district's ability to have enough staff given absences due to illness. According to guidance from the Snohomish Health District, a classroom closure is necessary when there are 3 or more active positive cases in one classroom. A school closure may be necessary when 10% or more of the student body is out with active COVID cases OR if 20% of classrooms in a school are closed due to COVID. Additionally, due to a widespread shortage of substitutes available to cover classrooms, we will be working with school leaders to closely monitor staff absences due to illness and may need to adjust or temporarily close classrooms or schools if we do not have enough coverage.

If an elementary classroom or school closure is necessary, your child's teacher or principal will contact you with information on checking out a district Chromebook. Middle and high school students should already have checked out a Chromebook from their school (not including SVEC). Teachers will utilize Canvas and they will communicate the learning structure and expectations to students and families. Since the change to remote will be based upon things out of our control, we may not have much notice before we need to quickly pivot. Our current plan is to have teachers provide independent learning (asynchronous) via Canvas on the first day of the closure and then provide live Zoom instruction from the second day on; however, this may change if teachers are sick and no substitutes are available. I ask that you think through what might be needed for your family if there is a classroom or school closure for your student.

For now, we plan to work with school leaders to safely allow after school athletics and activities to continue if we have a school closure. I would like to emphasize, at this time we are not talking about a district-wide closure, but if an individual school must close we have a plan to continue activities and athletics. There are no plans to implement a district-wide closure.


School Bus Driver Shortage

Due to illness and Snohomish Health District guidelines, we are experiencing an increasingly severe shortage of school bus drivers. This may affect your students' transportation in the very near future.

Families need to closely monitor communication from the school district for potential notifications of bus route interruptions. It's important for families to have a plan for what they will do if the bus route is canceled for that day or significantly delayed. It is also possible that bus stop locations and times may need to be adjusted on a temporary basis to accommodate the driver shortage. Route changes of any kind will be communicated to all affected families.

We will continue to make every effort to service all existing routes by utilizing all of our staff who have a CDL license. This includes mechanics and all office staff, which may result in delayed responses when calling the transportation department office. We understand the disruption and uncertainty this situation causes. We are thankful for your patience and understanding.


MSD COVID Testing to Reopen Wednesday

And last, but not least, I want to share some good news. Today we received our shipment of COVID tests and are therefore able to reopen our district's COVID testing site tomorrow! To help preserve our supply of tests, please remember that our testing is available only for our staff, students and their immediate families. Testing will reopen Wednesday, January 12 from 11:00-2:00 at the District Administration Office. More information can be found on our website.

Thank you for your continued partnership in supporting the well-being of our students and staff.

Sincerely,

Kim Whitworth
Acting Superintendent & Chief Academic Officer