On October 19, a portion of our elementary students will be back in our hallways in-person for hybrid learning followed by middle and high school students in November. The District is eager to begin this process and move the 2020-21 school year forward. We apologize for the length of this message, however we feel there is a lot of important information included and we want to always be transparent with the community on how decisions are made for our schools.
Local Health Department Matrix
Last month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released a tool to help guide us through the decision-making process as COVID-19 infection rates fluctuate around Ingham County. This matrix is a collaborative effort from health departments across the state and it looks at multiple risk factors to determine if returning to and/or continuing with in-person instruction makes sense from a health perspective.
The Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) encourages us to focus primarily on the data from our county, and recognize that there will be hot spots of spread of COVID-19 that may or may not impact Mason. For instance, the recent student outbreak around Michigan State University in East Lansing, impacts Ingham County’s numbers, but may not impact Mason.
The guidance directs us to use these factors:
- Percent of positive tests (with consideration of hot spots and if they impact our community)
- Number of cases per million
- Number of known cases and/or evidence of transmission within a school building
The information and risk levels for the percent of positive tests and the number of cases per million for Ingham County can be found at www.mistartmap.info. Reviewing these metrics to determine the health and wellness of our community will be an ongoing process and revisited regularly. The ICHD also has COVID-19 data that is updated Monday-Friday on their website.
These indicators released from MDHHS on September 16 are intended to be used as a guide between Mason Public Schools leadership and the health department. We have a good working relationship with the ICHD as we will lean on them significantly as our health experts to guide our steps as we have positive COVID-19 cases. We will utilize this tool as we make decisions moving forward.
Decision Making & Communication Process
It is important to fully understand what we will and will not communicate with regards to positive COVID-19 cases. Please keep in mind that we rely heavily on our health experts at the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) to guide us through this process. Mason Public Schools (MPS) will report probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases for individuals who are physically present during their infection period. MPS and the ICHD work together to handle contact tracing and identify close contacts. We follow the guidance of our health experts to make decisions on who is impacted based on their findings. An individual is considered to be physically present during their infection period if they are in our buildings two days (48 hours) prior to having any symptoms or testing positive.
Please understand we have limited ability to share details about positive cases. Due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 which is a federal law which requires us to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records), we will only share general information, not specifics about who has tested positive.
We ask that you not assume if someone is out of the office or school that they have COVID-19. There are many reasons people are out. They could be caring for a loved one, they could have other health conditions, they could be taking a leave of absence, all of which are confidential and not for the District to share.
As there have been changes to the Emergency Order powers of the Governor, there have been questions about what guidance Mason Public Schools (MPS) will be following to keep the District safe. MPS will be adhering to guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD). Earlier this month, the ICHD implemented emergency orders including Mask Wearing and Indoor and Outdoor Gathering Limits.
Mason Public Schools (MPS) will share updates received from the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) using our COVID-19 Dashboard, as required by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), effective October 12. MPS will work with the ICHD to receive and share data regarding school associated cases. The ICHD determines what is a probable or confirmed case. According to the MDHHS, a “school associated case” means a case of probable or confirmed COVID-19 amongst students, teachers, staff members, coaches, volunteers or any other person who was present on school property or at a school function under circumstances that may result in the transmission or contraction of COVID-19 during their infectious period. As directed by the MDHHS, the ICHD must share probable or confirmed cases with schools within 24 hours. Schools will then post the information received in a public place within 24 hours of notification from the health department. We will continue to work with ICHD to ensure the safety of our students, families and staff. Visit the dashboard at www.masonk12.net/covid-19/dashboard.
Family Guide and Protocols
When students are in the school buildings for in-person instruction, strict safety protocols will need to be followed. Please take a few moments to review the Family Guide and Protocols for In-Person Instruction attachment that provides information and requirements for returning to in-person instruction. Please give special attention to the daily student screening directions for parents and guardians in the Family Guide and Protocols for In-Person Instruction, as it is critically important that students not attend school in-person if they are experiencing symptoms.
Mason Public Schools Administration