December 30, 2021
Good afternoon. I hope this email finds you and your family doing well. As we prepare to return to school after the holiday season, I want to share a few COVID-19 updates and reminders with you.
Return from Winter Break In-Person on January 4
As of right now, our plan is to return to school in-person on January 4th, as scheduled. However, it is important to note, we are closely monitoring our staffing situation and will notify you if plans change due to staffing for any of our schools. We apologize for the inconvenience late notice of a change in plans can cause, but due to the nature of how unplanned or illness-related absences are reported last-minute, this is a fluid situation. Please be prepared for the possibility of a quick shift to remote learning and/or transportation delays. If this becomes necessary, you will be notified as soon as we know.
Heading into the new year, masks will continue to be required for students and staff in our schools until further notice. While Lake County is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, this important virus mitigation strategy will help stop the spread. When COVID-19 transmission was improving in the fall, I was hoping it would be safe to move from masks required to masks recommended for the start of the second semester, but that is no longer the case. I will revisit this topic at a later date.
New CDC Isolation and Quarantine Recommendations
Mentor Schools will implement the CDC’s new Isolation and Quarantine guidelines as we return to school, while also following the law of Ohio House Bill 244. Because these two sets of rules have conflicting components, we understand this can be very confusing. Our team looks at each case of COVID-19 on an individual basis and will help walk you through it if COVID affects your family. Families should continue to contact their children’s school office or principal about covid-related topics. Here are the guidelines we will use:
Positive or presumed positive COVID: The CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for people with COVID-19, if asymptomatic, from 10 days to 5 days, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. Those with COVID-19 who are experiencing symptoms should not return to school or activities until they are symptom-free. Mentor Schools will follow these new guidelines for people with COVID-19 starting immediately.
Exposure in a school setting: We will continue to notify anyone who is considered a close contact to an infected individual at school. Close contacts in a school setting will not be required to quarantine as long as they are symptom-free and able to wear a mask. Individuals should test after day 5 of the exposure.
Exposure outside of school: If a student or staff member is exposed to COVID-19 (considered a close contact) or someone in your home has COVID-19, you must keep your child home from school to quarantine. Individuals may return 5 days from the last exposure to the positive case, i.e. proper isolation was maintained throughout, as long as they are symptom-free and able to wear a mask. The only exception to having to quarantine is if a child is (1) over the age of 16 and has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccination, (2) is totally symptom-free, and (3) will wear a mask. Please contact your child’s school office to report the quarantine absence, which will be excused, and we will be able to guide you through when your child can return to school based on dates of exposure and how to access school work. Individuals should test after day 5 of the exposure.
We are also asking you to please keep children home from school if a member of the household is waiting for COVID-19 test results or is experiencing COVID symptoms. This is as courtesy for others in the school. The same exception as described above would apply here, too.
*In the context of the above: Isolation is the term and practice used when someone has tested positive for COVID-19. Quarantine is the term and practice used when someone has been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19.
**The new guidelines can be applied for individuals who are currently isolated or quarantined if they are not exhibiting symptoms. Provided they are symptom-free and willing to wear a mask upon their return, they may come back after 5 days rather than 10. There are no exceptions (mask exemptions) to wearing masks to shorten an isolation or quarantine period.
Ohio House Bill 244
The reason vaccinated children under the age of 16 are still required to quarantine after an out-of-school COVID-19 exposure is because of Ohio House Bill 244. This law does not allow for us to use vaccination status to differentiate protocols for students, unless we’re considering a vaccine that is fully-FDA approved. Currently, there are no fully FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines available for children under the age of 16, rather the vaccine is in emergency use authorization status for children of that age.
Vaccinated students over 16, who’ve had the fully approved Pfizer vaccine, may come to school after a COVID-19 exposure if they are symptom-free and will wear a mask.
COVID-19 cases are dramatically on the rise in our community, and as we’ve said before, the number of cases in our schools among students and staff will reflect what is going on in the greater community, with most people contracting the virus outside of school. We are working closely with the Lake County Health Commissioner, as well as reviewing data, to make sure we can operate safely. As has been the case with all of our COVID-19 planning, this information is subject to change, and we remain ready to make quick adjustments if necessary.
Please continue to do everything you can both inside and outside of school to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community by following the important mitigation guidelines that are in place. Thank you for your continued support.