Yesterday we welcomed kindergarten through 9th grade students back into our buildings for the first time since March 2020! While greeting our students on their way in I felt a range of emotions, from the excitement of seeing our students in person, to a bit of angst about what the next few weeks will hold. I’m sure as parents, you felt a similar range of emotions. Schools are not meant to sit empty; they are meant to be loud, vibrant, and full of life and energy. Even with so much happening, I felt a sense of calm watching as our students settled into their classrooms.
As you may have already heard or read, the Montgomery County Office of Public Health voted to close public and non-public schools for a minimum of two weeks beginning on November 23, 2020. For Spring-Ford, this means that our students will remain home for the week following the scheduled Fall Break.
- November 20, 2020: students and staff will take instructional materials home with the plan to work virtually the week after Thanksgiving.
- November 23-27, 2020: Spring-Ford will follow the scheduled Fall Break. If needed, parents will receive an update from the building level regarding conferences. Employees can expect to hear from the Curriculum Department regarding the scheduled In-Service Day plans.
- November 30-December 6: all school districts in Montgomery County will return to Virtual Learning.
The complete order reads, “All schools, both public and private in Montgomery County are required to support virtual education only, for the period of November 23 through December 6, 2020. This requirement includes virtual education only and canceling of school sanctioned extra-curricular activities including sports games and practices.”
Q and A as of November 13, 2020:
Why did the County make this decision? The Montgomery County Office of Public Health (OPH) expressed concern over the potential for widespread increase of confirmed cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. Health officials have identified small household gatherings as a contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases. They consider closing schools following the Fall Break to be a preventative measure to reduce the spread of the virus.
Will Spring-Ford continue with the scheduled reopening plans until November 23? Yes! Spring-Ford will move forward with the current reopening plans. I have personally been in touch with our county DOH contact and feel confident in following their guidance, which at this time is to “stay the course.” Again, the County recommendation to return to virtual is due to their concern over household gatherings that typically take place throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, not due to current trends in school. Their intent is to reduce numbers now to prevent further spread in December.
Going forward, we will continue to rely on the OPH to guide us on matters related to the safety of our students and employees. The OPH will assess the need for public and private schools to move to a virtual learning model based on the following criteria:
- Linked Transmission in School OR
- Two-week trend by school district municipalities of
- Incident rate for the school district 80-100 per 100,000
- Incident rate for the school district 80-100 per 100,000
- Positivity 6-8% OR
- Functional Closure
Who will my child’s teacher be during the virtual week following the Fall Break? Students remain with their current Second Marking Period teacher going forward, whether we are in-person or virtual.
My family opted to remain virtual. What does this mean for us? Your student will continue to work directly with their teachers and will continue to follow their daily schedule. Virtual students will follow the same School Calendar and will not have scheduled classes from November 23-27, 2020.
My family opted to remain in the Spring-Ford Cyber Learning Program. What does this mean for us? Spring-Ford Cyber Learning students will follow the same School Calendar and will be off from November 23-27, 2020.
What information will the district send over the next week? We will send updates to all families as they become available and may increase our district-wide communication beyond the standard Weekly Update as needed. Over the weekend, we will gather additional questions and will send an updated Q and A on Monday. Please keep in mind that this vote came from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, and some questions would be best directed to the County.
My child has an IEP or 504 plan and has been in school since earlier this year. Does this effect my child? Yes, according to the DOH order, all students – including Students with Special Needs – will return to virtual learning for the week of November 30 through December 6.
What can my family do to remain healthy over the Fall Break? The CDC released Considerations for Small Gatherings of Family and Friends. As mentioned above, health officials have identified small household gatherings as a contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Please click here to read the CDC recommendations to slow the spread of COVID during small gatherings.
What can my family do to ensure we are following best practices to remain healthy? First and foremost, each morning families should review the Daily COVID Checklist. If you answer “yes” to any question, please keep your child home.
- Daily COVID Checklist – please review this checklist each morning with your child.
- Wash your hands often with hot water and soap.
- Avoid close contact, both inside your home and outdoors. The CDC recommends putting six feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household, BOTH inside your home and outdoor.
- Cover your mouth AND nose with a mask when around others.
- Clean your mask daily. Your mask is like any other piece of clothing and requires regular, daily cleaning.
Click here for more information from the CDC
This update may feel like a setback, especially as it is delivered on our second day back to school. Please know that we are in a very different place today than we were March 12th. We have time to prepare to revert back to virtual; our teachers, students, and families have experience in a virtual platform; and our local health officials know more about this virus than before.
I appreciate your understanding and support as we navigate this rapidly changing information.
Dr. David Goodin