Updates from Mr. Dahlberg
November 1st Update – Asking for help:
As I write this update, we have made it through 53 of our 175 days of school, almost 1/3 of the way through the year! We still have about 122 days left in the school year and we are getting to a pretty precarious part of the year when it comes to COVID. We are getting to the part of the year that COVID will be mixing with our normal illnesses like the flu, strep throat, and other respiratory illnesses that either can or cannot be defined. I know that we all have varying levels of COVID fatigue, but I want to remind everyone of what is at stake.
We want to do everything in our power to keep kids in the building and learning throughout this school year, that is our number one goal. I strongly believe that we have advantages to this situation that many other schools do not have, mainly that we are a small district with two separate buildings.
The conversations I have had with people in the community when discussing COVID center around a few things: masks, quarantine rules, and testing.
On the mask issue: I have seen enough studies to show that they work to reduce the risk. While these studies cannot put a number on how much risk is reduced (ie: 5% or 95%), there is evidence to support that masks do reduce risk of transmission. Whether you want to believe that or not is up to each individual. I will not spend time trying to argue with or convince anyone to one way of thinking. What matters is the fact that I know that mask wearing at school will keep kids in school. Anyone at school that is exposed to a positive case will not be quarantined unless they, or the person who is positive, is not wearing a mask. If everyone is masked, then only those that are positive or showing symptoms will need to quarantine.
Quarantine Rules: Quarantine rules are pretty simple. If you have a close contact, you are supposed to quarantine for 14 days from last contact. This is because of the fact that people have developed symptoms anywhere from 2-14 days after a close contact. Isolation for a positive case is 10 days as long as they don’t have a fever and their symptoms improve. This is because people that end up with COVID usually recover after that time frame. That is why some people end up on quarantine longer than a positive case. There could easily be a situation where a person recovers from COVID before one of their close contacts even develops symptoms.
Quarantine Rules Part 2: Another part of this involves the mask wearing as discussed before. If everyone is masked, then only the positive case and any symptomatic students need to quarantine. If the positive case is unmasked, then anyone that is a close contact needs to quarantine, regardless of if they were wearing a mask or not. If the positive case is wearing a mask and close contacts are not, the close contacts need to quarantine. The difficulty is determining if there is enough close contact to warrant quarantine. If it cannot be determined whether or not unmasked students or staff were in close contact, the assumption is that they were and they will be asked to quarantine. Again, wearing a mask at school will increase the changes of a student being able to stay in school.
Testing: There is a lot of people not willing to get tested. The school cannot force anyone to be tested and they cannot force anyone to cooperate with contact tracing. This puts the school in a bad place because we have to try to determine if we should tighten our rules or not based on incomplete information. Sending a student to school who is a potential first contact, especially if they do not wear a mask, put the class or school at risk of having a spread that gets out of control. Again, I cannot and will not try to convince or argue with anyone on the testing issue, but I will have some scenarios that I would like everyone to consider.
I have had a lot of discussions with people over their rights. I understand and agree that we enjoy many, many rights in this country, especially in rural Nebraska. At the same time, I don’t have a lot of discussions about responsibilities. We ALL have responsibilities to each other and if we are unwilling to make sacrifices for the good of the students, then we run the risk of having our kids lose out on activities and classroom learning.
There is a famous quote (cannot remember who it is attributed to) that states: The right to swing my arms in any direction ends where your nose begins. Again, we all have rights…but we also have responsibilities to each other.
At this point, we have been pretty lucky with our COVID situations that it doesn’t seem like any of our positive cases have caused spread at the school. That obviously could change at any moment. Therefore, we are asking help in the following situations:
If you child is sick, with anything, please keep them home.
If you are sick, please refrain from coming to the school.
If you are a close contact, please consider having your child wear a mask at school.
If you become ill after having a close contact, please keep your child home (even if you don’t test) and monitor their symptoms.
If your child is a close contact, please keep them home.
While we want the kids in as much as possible, keeping the home for a week or two is better than risking the chance of them carrying and spreading it to others.
All of our index cases, from what we can determine, have happened outside of the school buildings. This is important to remember, because anyone can obviously pick this up from anywhere. Therefore, we ask that everyone (staff and students included) help keep our kids in school by following these recommendations:
Whenever possible, avoid close contact situations.
Avoid crowded rooms or gatherings. A lot of the spread they are seeing across the country is stemming from family gatherings as much as other events.
If you are in close contact situations or crowded rooms or gatherings, please wear a face covering.
If your child was in a close contact situation or crowded room or gathering, please have them wear a face covering at school.
If you are considered a close contact, please follow quarantine rules, including those that affect your children.
We also understand that we need to do our part at the school. We have focused on doing additional cleaning/disinfecting, we continue to have servers at the salad bar, and we try to limit close contact whenever possible.
We have also implemented mask mandates for the staff when they are in close contact with students. Therefore, if any of our staff become sick with COVID, only those that are unmasked will be asked to quarantine.
We will be implementing a rule starting on Tuesday that all visitors to the school will need to wear a mask while students are present. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, you will be asked to leave.
For winter activities, the NSAA has a mask mandate and we will be expecting all spectators to follow it. If you cannot or will not wear a mask, you will be asked to leave. We greatly appreciate the participation on mask wearing that we have seen thus far.
We will be looking at setting up streaming sites (ie: at the Life Center or one of the churches) and will encourage those that are not immediate family to watch from there or from home. We may need to limit attendance to some of our activities to immediate family only.
If we start having more spread among parents and/or students, we may move to a mask mandate for the students. We will honor the opt-out forms at first, but will reserve the right to make a mask mandate for everyone. If things are bad enough that we will not honor the opt-out forms, the parents of those students will have the ability to request remote or at-home learning options. Again, we have seen a great deal of participation from the kids on this, and this would only be a last resort situation.
Again, we are doing all we can to protect the school year. While a lot of focus and updates center around the activities (especially sports right now), our main concern is having the kids in the classroom and keeping them learning throughout the year.
We cannot do it alone and we need your help! Please remain diligent both in and out of the school building to keep our kids in school. If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at the school. Thank you!