Dear Methow Valley Students and Parents,
As predicted by national, state, and local public healthcare officials, the highly transmissible Omicron variant is rapidly spreading within communities and schools, large and small.
We continue to receive reports of an increasing number of schools and districts temporarily transitioning to a remote learning platform and/or suspending athletic events and extracurricular activities.
Here in the Methow Valley, despite our relatively high COVID-19 vaccination rates, particularly amongst students and staff, not to mention our continued adherence to the many mitigating strategies designed to minimize the spread of the virus, we have identified more positive cases of COVID-19 since our return from Winter Break than we did all of last fall. We anticipate the number of positive cases will continue to grow.
In spite of this new challenge, what hasn’t changed is the district’s goal to promote the health and wellness of our community, including our youth by keeping our schools open for in-person instruction. The importance of providing for students’ academic, social-emotional, and physical health and well-being through in-person instruction and participation in the district’s many enriching learning opportunities cannot be overstated.
Frequently Asked Questions…
Q: If this is the goal, how do we proceed in the face of Omicron?
A: We minimize the spread within our community, thus minimizing the impact upon our hospitals, medical providers, and first responders, “and” we minimize the spread within our schools, ensuring we can adequately staff our schools for in-person instruction.
Q: How can we accomplish these goals?
A: Having recently met with state and local public health officials, they have stated you should assume the Omicron variant is present within your community and schools and that you should continue to follow the WA DOH K-12 COVID-19 Guidelines [pdf]. They also stated that it is clear that parents play a key role and recommend focusing on the following actions:
- Remain diligent about monitoring your student’s health and wellness for COVID-19 related symptoms at home.
- Do not send your student to school if they are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
- When in doubt, access the MVSD COVID-19 testing program taking place daily, before school, outside the western entrance to LBHS and the ILC, accounting for your student’s health and wellness, as well as others.
- Maintain, and if needed, update your child’s vaccination status. COVID-19 isn’t the only threat to your student’s health and wellness. The flu season is upon us.
- Vaccinate eligible students against COVID-19.
- Wear a mask (preferably a KN 95 for older students) when in school and in public settings.
- Maintain distance when possible.
- Temporarily minimize travel and participation in large group gatherings.
- Maintain proper hygiene.
- Implement the use of air purifiers.
- Spend as much time outdoors as possible.
- Stay at home when you’re feeling sick. Yes, we’re repeating ourselves.
Q: What if, in spite of my diligent efforts, my student tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Let’s begin by agreeing to a “no shame, no judgment” policy. In spite of our best efforts, some healthcare and medical officials have reported that a significant portion of the population will become infected with COVID-19. If you, your student, or a family member tests positive for COVID-19, you are encouraged to notify the school immediately, enabling us to guide you through the quarantine options, and discuss how you can assist with our efforts to further contain the spread within our schools.
Q: Where can I find information about the WA DOH Quarantine and Test-to-Stay Procedures?
A: Information outlining the recent updates to the WA DOH K-12 Quarantine and Test-to-Stay Procedures involving students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 can be found on our COVID-19 Updates page. If you have further questions, please contact MVSD COVID Liaison, Annelisa Tornberg or MVSD School Nurse, Adriana Vanbianchi if you have any questions.
Q: Will school nurses continue to “contact trace” and notify me if my child may have been exposed?
A: Given limited staffing, coupled with the exponential rate of spread and focus on COVID-19 testing, school nurses will be limited at best in their capacity to contact trace every positive case. As a parent, we encourage you to notify those who you believe may have been a close contact.
Q: How do I determine who is a close contact?
A: The definition of a “close contact” as defined by the WA DOH can be found on our COVID-19 Updates page.
Q: An increasing number of schools have transitioned from in-person instruction to remote learning. What would require the MVSD to temporarily transition from in-person instruction to remote learning?
A: The MVSD remains committed to the safety and well being of our students and staff. This includes offering in-person instruction. This is a position that is supported by the WA DOH, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Governor. We remain optimistic that our broad range of mitigation strategies will allow us to remain open for in-person learning. The ONLY reason we could foresee needing to temporarily transition a school to remote learning would be if we could not adequately staff our schools.
Q: If the MVSD weren’t able to adequately staff one or more of it’s schools, how would we be notified of this situation?
A: If we were forced to temporarily transition to remote learning, we would notify you with as much lead time as possible using the same media sources used to communicate changes to the school schedule due to weather-related events.
Q: Given the prevalence of the Omicron variant, what if I as a parent remain concerned about the safety and welfare of my student and wish to temporarily homeschool my student? Can I do so?
A: If you believe that temporarily transitioning to a homeschool platform during this period of time is in the best interest of your student and/or family, we will work with you to support your decision.
Q: What if I have other ideas that are not included in this FAQ that I believe parents or the school district could implement that would help to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and increase the likelihood of our schools remaining open?
A: Please email your thoughts and ideas to your student’s principal or to me. We meet regularly with our COVID Liaison, school nurse, and public health officials to discuss, monitor, and make adjustments at all points along the way.
On behalf of our entire staff, thank you for the opportunity to serve in support of your student’s academic, social-emotional, and physical health and wellness. As we approach the peak, I remain hopeful and optimistic that brighter days reside on the other side. I can see it… Let’s work together to help our students see it as well!