Covid Mitigation District Update

Posted by Adam Spina on 8/5/2021 5:01:00 PM

We are heading into the final stretch with our preparations for the 2021-2022 school year. As part of this process, the District developed updated Covid-19 mitigation plans. These are outlined below and include an FAQ section. Note -- these plans could change at any time based on new public health orders from the CDC, MDHHS, or ICHD. WCS will continue to follow rules for athletics as determined by MDHHS and MHSAA. 

Williamston will start the school year using a layered Covid-19 mitigation plan, based on recommendations set forth by MDHHS. The concept below has been reviewed by the ICHD. Additionally, after a parent survey and collaboration with the district leadership team, our Kids’ Camp program successfully piloted the mitigation plan this summer. The measures listed in the chart below are not exhaustive and several current or potential future mitigation options are not featured.

Layered Mitigation Plan as of August 5, 2021

The Layered Mitigation Plan adds or subtracts mitigation measures based on positivity rates and/or transmission levels in our community. Assuming our community Covid-19 rates stay at or about the current level, we will begin the school year in the “Low/Negligible” or “Green” column. In this category, mitigation measures will include frequent hand washing, enhanced cleaning and air filtration, as well as the continued use of daily health screenings. Masks / face coverings will be required for all staff and students while riding in school buses; aligning with current CDC mass transportation orders. Masks / face coverings are recommended for all students, vaccinated staff, and visitors while indoors at district facilities. Masks will be required of unvaccinated staff when indoors in an instructional setting. If Covid-19 rates increase in our community, or if there are associated cases in our schools, additional mitigation measures may be added if appropriate. 

As masks / face coverings are a controversial topic, I want to be clear that there is a likelihood that during certain periods throughout the year, masks for students could be required. This is especially true for students in grade levels who are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations. We all know that the situation with Covid-19 can change rapidly, and masks will be required when circumstances dictate. Masks could also be required by a local or state health department order. Changes will be communicated by school, department, or district leadership, depending on applicable circumstances.

It is also important to emphasize that masking reduces the chances of a required quarantine in the event of close contact with a Covid-19 positive individual. Current ICHD quarantine requirements mandate a ten (10) day quarantine within three (3) feet for a cumulative period of 15 minutes or more for unvaccinated students or staff wearing a mask. For unvaccinated students or staff not wearing a mask, the distance expands to six (6) feet. As of now, the quarantine period can be reduced to as little as eight (8) days with a negative PCR test, conducted no sooner than seven (7) days after the potential exposure. Therefore, wearing a mask can reduce time away from school due to mandatory quarantine requirements for unvaccinated individuals. More information on how the quarantine process works is listed in the FAQ section below.

Additional 2021-2022 School Year Information

Will a remote option be available?

A remote option will be available to students who are medically fragile and for whom contracting Covid-19 could put them at greater risk for severe illness. A remote option will also be considered for students with immediate family members who reside in their household for whom contracting Covid could result in a serious medical condition. The remote option will be provided by Virtual Online Academic Consortium (VLAC) and not by Williamston teachers. However, students enrolled in VLAC remain Williamston students and can continue to participate in Williamston co-curricular activities and other events. Limited VLAC spaces are available. To apply, provide a note from a medical provider along with any additional details to your child’s school. You will be contacted as soon as possible with a confirmation if there is a VLAC seat available. If space is available, the commitment to VLAC is for the entire 2021-2022 school year. If your child is eligible for VLAC, please carefully review the materials here before applying.

Are masks / face coverings required at school?

As of now, masks / face coverings are only required when utilizing district transportation. They may be required when indoors, based on community positivity rates or confirmed school-associated cases. Masks might also be required by health department order. In keeping with health department guidance, WCS currently recommends all staff, students, and visitors wear masks when indoors in instructional settings.

Will students be in cohorts?

Students will not be cohorted unless community transmission/positivity rates require that level of mitigation. 

Will contact tracing continue?

Like all other school districts, WCS is required to report instances of communicable diseases to their local health department within 24 hours. Positive or probable school-associated Covid-19 cases will be reported to the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD).

Are eligible students required to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes?

No.

Will students/staff be required to quarantine?

A common misconception is that WCS decides when/if students and staff need to quarantine. In fact, the ICHD makes that determination based on contact tracing completed by the school. Unvaccinated students and staff may be required to quarantine based on distance and cumulative time in close proximity to an individual with Covid-19. Students and staff who are fully vaccinated will not be required to quarantine under current CDC guidelines unless they test positive. Fully vaccinated individuals are now being advised to take a precautionary PCR test 3-5 days after a known exposure, and wear a mask for 14 days from the date of the exposure. If positive, people who are vaccinated must isolate for ten days. 

Wearing a mask / face covering decreases the likelihood of an unvaccinated person having to quarantine by expanding the minimum distance from an individual with Covid-19 during the contact tracing process. Thus, wearing a mask reduces the chances students will miss school and co-curricular activities due to mandatory quarantine. 

Will student athletes be required to test for Covid-19 in order to participate?

At this time, there is no MDHHS or MHSAA requirement to test in order to participate in athletics. 

What will open house look like this year? 

The open house format at the Discovery and Explorer Elementary Schools will be revised this year to better ensure the safety of our students, staff, and families. Students entering Kindergarten and students new to the District will have the option to attend an in-person open house. Returning elementary students will have the opportunity to meet their teacher through a remote session. This format will significantly reduce crowds in the elementary buildings prior to the start of school in keeping with the mitigation plan. More information will be communicated by the elementary schools next week. The middle and high school open houses will proceed as scheduled/previously communicated. 

Additional details and school-specific information regarding the upcoming year will be forthcoming. Information on the 2021-2022 District Calendar can be located on the WCS website or at the link here. A reminder that August 23 will be the first day of school this year.