“I’ve heard that over 200 students at Liberty Bell were absent today due to COVID this week… And, over half of the staff is out with COVID as well. Is it true?“
Dear Methow Valley Students, Parents, and Community Members,
Maybe some of you’ve heard rumors like this as well. Having fielded numerous emails, phone calls, and engaged in conversations with parents and community members where I’ve heard statements like this, I thought I’d take a moment, come up for air, reach out, and provide a brief update intended to address a few of the frequently asked questions, comments, and rumors that appear to be spreading, in some cases, as rapidly as Omicron.
Faced with a significant surge in COVID cases following Winter Break, amplified by limited staffing, anticipated supply shortages, and ever-evolving changes to isolation and quarantine guidelines, the questions, concerns, and rumors come as no surprise… Having prioritized testing, contact tracing (within our schools), communicating results, and supporting families with contact tracing efforts who have reported positive results outside of the school setting, not to mention operating a school that continues to grow in enrollment and expand educational services, it’s been difficult to gauge and accurately communicate the overall health and wellness of our school community.
Public health officials report similar challenges. However, working together, we have prioritized and directed our limited resources into proven practices that provide the highest level of resistance in the fight against COVID, all with one simple goal in mind – keep our schools open and contribute to the overall health and wellness of our community.
Brighter days lie ahead!
Superintendent, Methow Valley School District
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What do we know at this time?
A: During the two weeks following our return from break, we administered approximately 150 COVID tests on-site, every morning, with an average daily positivity rate of approximately 2-3%, not including the number of positive COVID cases reported to us by parents.
Q: How does the positivity rate in January compare to the fall?
A: The number of positive cases identified by our staff, coupled with positive cases reported to us throughout the month of January has well surpassed the number of positive cases identified by our team throughout the entire fall.
Q: When and where have we seen the highest rate of spread occur within our schools?
A: During the third week of January, we witnessed a sharp spike with daily positivity rates climbing as high as 8%. Somewhat alarmed by the sudden increase, we were able to quickly assess and determine that many of the cases involved our student-athletes, coaches, and spectators. This appears to be consistent with school districts throughout our county and state.
Q: Can the MVSD provide an exact number of positive COVID cases involving students?
A: Not at this time. We are not able to provide an exact number of positive COVID cases involving students given that not all parents of students who are symptomatic and stay home or required to quarantine due to possible exposure are tested for COVID. Further, not all positive cases confirmed outside of the school are reported to us. Finally, we’ve been advised by our state and local public health officials that facilitating testing, contact tracing within our schools, and communicating results with parents is a better use of our limited staffing and resources.
Q: The MVSD temporarily suspended athletics. Why?
A: Based upon the information gathering through our COVID testing, indicating a rapid rise in positivity rates, possibly resulting in increased infections, increased spread within our schools and community, staffing shortages, and school closures, the district made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend participation in athletic events and restrict spectator attendance at games.
Q: Did local public health officials require you to temporarily suspend athletics?
A: No. Acknowledged by our local public health officials as a difficult, yet wise and prudent decision, they did not require us to temporarily suspend participation in athletic events. They remain supportive of our efforts to promote participation in athletics when safe.
Q: What were the results associated with MVSD’s decision to temporarily suspend athletics?
A: Aside from the disappointment expressed by our student-athletes, we observed a rapid decrease in the positivity rate within our athletic programs and thus, an overall reduction in the positivity rate within our schools.
Q: Does this suggest there is a correlation between the increase in positive COVID cases among student-athletes and the school population as a whole?
A: We can’t state with certainty that there is a clear correlation between the reduction in positive COVID cases amongst our athletic teams and overall school population. However, we do believe the current positivity rates that we’re seeing suggest that our decision has helped us slow the spread of the virus within our schools. More importantly, it has allowed us to achieve our primary goals – keep our schools open, resume participation in athletic events, welcome back home spectators, and contribute to the health and wellness of our community.
Q: Faced with the Omicron variant, do the K-12 COVID Guidelines make a difference?
A: We’d like to think so. The average daily positivity rate among students and staff who tested positive this week has been less than 2%, with the majority of cases having been traced to an exposure that took place outside of the school setting.
Q: Are we approaching the peak? Better yet, could it be that we’ve already surpassed it?
A: A public health official from our region recently stated, “Brighter days lie ahead… However, while some places in the U.S. are reported to have reached the peak, we’re not out of the woods yet.” The number of positive COVID cases being reported throughout our county and within our community continues to increase, suggesting we’ve not yet reached the peak.
Q: What should I do as a parent? Do I send my student to school? I want to keep my student and family safe, while, at the same time, support my student’s academic progress, mental health, and physical well-being…
A: Given the unique needs and situation associated with every student and family, we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What we do know is that our staff remain committed to promoting the health and wellness of our community, keeping our schools open, and doing whatever it takes to support the academic, social-emotional, and physical health and wellness of your student.