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Reopening Schools Update
Reopening Schools Update
Jim Chasse
Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Dear Hermon School Department Families & Staff:

 I hope that you have enjoyed the summer and that your family is doing well.  The schools have been busy with capital improvements, summer athletics, recreation, and extended school year programs.

These are interesting times. This letter is to update you on COVID-19 and the start of the school year.  You should also receive ongoing communication from the school your child(ren) attends that details even more COVID protection efforts.

The HSD school committee voted last night to implement pool testing at its schools and to allow parental choice for masking.  The requested parental survey results are included below.   

Details:

· All students will return five days per week!

The federal and State of Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have clearly stated that no conditions should prevent the full reopening of school to all students.

This essentially removes social distancing due to our population and square footage.  School-level details will inform as to how we will do our best to handle spacing at each school.

HSD will implement 3.5 of the 4 items determined by the MCDC to limit isolation and quarantine.  Vaccination, Masks (w/ choice), Prior Cases, Pool Testing.       

· At this point in time, we will not require masks to be worn, HOWEVER, we certainly strongly support wearing masks and especially when the transmission is proven to be locally at high levels.  Wearing masks in school is the current CDC recommendation, the committee will support the recommendation but at the parent decision level, subject to change should conditions warrant.  

The exception is on district transportation where there is still a federal mandate that masks must be worn on school busses.  Please have your child prepared to do so.

· Pool testing will be implemented at HSD schools.

The key to our safe return, and continued efforts to reduce any need for quarantining and other disruptive measures up to and including shutting schools down due to a spike in cases, is a COVID-19 testing program called Pooled Testing.  

Simply put, participating in this voluntary testing program will give your student the best chance to avoid quarantine while giving everyone the confidence that we are keeping COVID-19 out of our schools.  Hermon will employ a dedicated nurse to coordinate our pool testing program.  It is a self-swab, non-invasive, quick process and we encourage your participation.  Schools will soon send home permission slips.  

If you want to be very proactive to avoid quarantine/isolation should cases arise then mask, vaccinate, and pool test- this layered approach can eliminate the need to quarantine or isolate.  Below, is the exact language from the MCDC SOP manual.

Exceptions (at least one) to having to quarantine in classroom exposure:

·  If the close contact (student or staff) is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic they do not need to be quarantined.

·  If the close contact (student or staff) is taking part in pool testing and is asymptomatic they do not need to be quarantined.

·  If the close contact (student or staff) has tested positive for Covid-19 in the previous 90 days and is asymptomatic they do not need to be quarantined.

·  If the student who tested positive and the close contact (student or staff) are both wearing masks and the close contact is asymptomatic they do not need to be quarantined (this exception does not apply to cafeteria, bus, or athletics/activities exposure.)

The state SOP can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/doe/sites/maine.gov.doe/files/2021-08/SOP%20Updated%208.12.21.pdf

 We will monitor symptoms and people will stay home if they are sick; keeping students in their learning groups or pods whenever possible, and promoting other strategies that keep students safe (school information forthcoming). 

To be clear, we will move to mask-wearing if it is deemed to be required in our schools. We will try to create a reasonable, rational approach that remains flexible in the pursuit of safety and access to all our programming.

Hermon has a high level of vaccinated school staff (estimated nearly 98%), effective HVAC/filter systems, and excellent sanitation protocols. We will seek to host another clinic for students this fall.  The Maine DHHS, using the 04401 zip code, tells us that up to 80% of people are vaccinated in Hermon. You can view the vaccination map of Maine here.  

Currently, students age 5 to 11 cannot be vaccinated, but that will likely be offered at some point this fall. It’s good to know that serious illness or complications in children remain rare. Also, according to News & World Report infection rates in unvaccinated children declined 99% after widespread vaccination of adults.

This summer our facilities hosted summer school, daily recreation department programming and our athletic events were close to 100 games with opponents.  These were all done with voluntary masking with no reported cases of the virus.

 As we did last year, and at last night's school committee meeting, we can continue to team on behalf of our students during these rather bizarre times. 

Thank you so much for your continued support as we look forward to the opening of our 2021-2022 school year.   

 Sincerely,

 

Jim Chasse, Superintendent

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Results of requested school cmt survey.