Happy Friday Springfield School Community,
Despite it having been a short week, it continues to be a very busy period with lots of action happening across the district. Here are a few quick updates as we head toward the weekend.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had ongoing conversations about how and when to best communicate concerning positive COVID cases in the district. Our stance from the beginning has been to err on the side of over-communicating. We have generally approached each COVID case in the following way: If there is a positive case at a school, the members of that school community will hear about it through their principal first. Then I follow-up with messaging to the rest of the families in the district.
As we hit a very large number of cases in recent weeks, you were hearing from me a lot. Our team began to get a little worried that it might even be overwhelming to families and staff. That concern was endorsed by several families expressing displeasure and even a few issuing us threats if we called again. This is what facilitated my phone survey to you and a staff survey. I wanted to gauge whether there was a desire for us to shift our approach to communication.
Based on those responses, we will be doing the following going forward: District staff will continue to be notified of all cases on the day we complete contact tracing. We will notify staff across all our various communication channels. Meanwhile, we will limit direct family communication to cases at your child’s school. That communication will also come across all mediums.
Please remember that if you wish to disenroll from our SchoolMessenger system, you can adjust your subscription options by clicking a link at the bottom of any automated email we send you.
As of mid-day today, we have experienced 9 new cases over the past 7 days: 4 at Elm Hill, 2 at Union Street, 1 at Riverside, and 2 at the high school. Those cases resulted in 129 close contacts. Of those close contacts, 91 needed to quarantine.
We know that the need for mass quarantining has been difficult for families. It also has been very disruptive to the education process. During last spring and summer, the district began to plan for this school year. We, like many, hoped that we had left COVID behind, and we focused our energy on this year being a year of academic and emotional recovery for our students. Unfortunately, the Delta variant changed all that as we returned, and we are now headed into a winter season that could be as tough as last year.
The hope that I can hold out to the school community comes in the form of the upcoming Test-to-Stay program. We are working with the state as they try to ramp up a variety of school-based testing options that will allow more students to stay in school despite being close contacts. Now the state is not ready yet, but we are working hard to get things prepared on our end. Families also have an important role to play in this process. In the near future, we will be sending you information about the testing options and asking for your permission to utilize those options with your students. Please keep an eye out for that request from us.
I have sent out some previous information about this, but I want to once again put out a call for stakeholders who may be interested in serving on the applicant screening committee for the superintendent search. The committee will help narrow the field of candidates for the school board’s final consideration. The board is seeking staff, students, parents, and community members who would like to serve. To be considered, you must submit an online form indicating interest by this Sunday. The form is available at: https://tinyurl.com/SSDSuperScreening
I just wanted to send one more apology for yesterday’s bus delays. We know that it made for a challenging afternoon for many families. I also want to thank our Transportation Coordinator Lisa Hall for her efforts to quickly resolve a challenging situation.
Here’s my last thought for this week. Please be kind to one another. As stress levels have risen, we are all getting burned out. At times like these, it is crucial that we concentrate on being good to each other. The difference in a person’s day, based on each of our decisions to be angry or be supportive, can be massive. We need to be forgiving of students who are struggling in this period of transition. We also need to be understanding when an exhausted school nurse or administrator needs to call with tough quarantining news. Everyone is trying to do their best. We need to cut each other some slack, and we need to focus on being kind. If we are working together, this journey is going to be so much easier.
Hang in there Cosmopolitans,
Dr. Zach McLaughlin
Superintendent of Schools