Dear Perrysburg Families and Employees,
I wanted to provide an update as we are now in the second week of school. We are grateful to all our families and employees who made the first week of school such a wonderful experience.
The Board of Education’s collective goal is to keep our students and employees healthy and our buildings open so learning may continue in a face-to-face environment. We want to avoid jarring our students, families and employees with quarantine, isolation and building schedule changes. To that end, we must remain flexible and take the steps necessary to achieve our goals.
I feel it necessary to share the following information at this time since things in our community and schools may change rapidly.
As of Tuesday, August 24, 2021:
· 16 students in Perrysburg Schools have COVID-19.
· 11 of the 16 students with COVID-19 are in grades kindergarten through
· 81 students are quarantined; 41 of those are at the K-6 elementary/HPI level.
To put this in perspective, it was not until the 6th week of school last year that the school district reached a cumulative total of more than 16 students with COVID-19. More concerning, it was not until the 12th week of school last year that the K-6 elementary/HPI level reached a cumulative total of 11 students with COVID-19. We did not reach 81 student quarantines until the 4th week of school last year.
So far this school year we are beginning with more cases overall at every level. At the same time, new contact tracing guidelines have been shared with school districts across Ohio. A summary of the COVID protocols and contact tracing guidelines will be provided in our updated Continuity of Service Plan available on the school district website. This information can be found on our website under the Info, Parents and Staff tabs, by clicking COVID-19 Information.
It is clear that the most important action students and employees may take to remain in school and avoid quarantines is to wear a mask or be vaccinated if eligible. Last year, school buildings were closed due to the high levels of employees needing to isolate and/or quarantine. The substitute pool remains seriously understaffed and from a pure desire to operate schools and keep our doors open, wearing a mask and getting the vaccine are schools’ best chance to do just that. For a moment, let’s suspend the debate as to the efficacy of masks. In terms of the quarantines and keeping schools open, wearing a mask will keep students and employees in the classroom under the quarantine guidelines.
Because of these factors, effective Thursday, August 26, all employees, students and visitors will be required to wear a mask while inside any of the Perrysburg Schools facilities regardless of vaccination status. By requiring all individuals to wear masks, we can reduce the need to quarantine – which disrupts student learning and negatively affects families’ ability to work – and reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Our most recent COVID data from the opening of school, subsequent quarantines and increase of community spread have demonstrated the need for this shift.
Please know that this is not where we want to be. We understand that masks are a polarizing issue for some. This decision is based on our primary goal of keeping students in class and keeping schools open. We do not want to return to virtual learning. The best way to accomplish this given the Ohio Department of Health’s quarantine guidelines is for all students and employees to wear masks while at school. We are hoping that our region, community and schools do not experience what is happening in other communities. We will continue to monitor the situation as we have in the past and are looking forward to easing protocols and ultimately returning to a place where masks and other precautions are not needed. We are also learning that, unlike last year, this current “wave” of COVID-19 cases seem to escalate quickly and in 5-8 weeks decrease. We hope that this is the case for our area.
This situation is not unique to Perrysburg. On August 25, 2021, the Ohio Department of Health reported 4,600 cases in one day, which is above the 7 day average of 2,860. The Cincinnati and Columbus areas are reporting the spread of more COVID-19 cases among children.
According to the Wood County Health Department website, the two-week average of 20 new COVID-19 cases per day is a 94 percent increase from the average two weeks ago. This type of increase is consistent with what is occurring across the state.
As we look specifically at the number of COVID-19 cases in the 43551 zip code between August 1st and August 24th, there have been 15 cases among children who are aged 5 - 11 years old. This is significant for us as this is the age band of our student population that is not eligible for the vaccine.
To complicate matters operationally for families and school officials alike, contact tracing under the Ohio Department of Health’s guidelines is confusing and very challenging to manage. Under these guidelines, students who are in close contact with a person positive for COVID-19 and not wearing a mask or if they have not received the vaccine can select one of the following options:
14 Days of Quarantine
10 Days of Quarantine with the Last 4 Days Masked
7 Days of Quarantine with a Negative COVID-19 Test on Day 5 and the Last 7 Days Masked
Under the ODH guidelines, students who are wearing a mask or who have been vaccinated who are in close contact with a person positive for COVID-19 DO NOT HAVE TO QUARANTINE as long as they remain symptom-free.
As we enter week two, our team is concerned about students, employees and families being infected with COVID-19. Also concerning is the Ohio Department of Health quarantine guidelines that all schools must follow. If a student or employee is in a classroom setting and is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, the student or employee would not have to quarantine if they are vaccinated or wearing a mask and not exhibiting any symptoms. If the student or employee is not masked or vaccinated, they would be required to quarantine.
We don’t want to whiplash our families and employees back and forth every week. Adding the layer of masks to our plans starting tomorrow avoids the chances of doing just that.
As mentioned, this is not where we planned or wanted to be when we ended school last year and made plans over the summer. It was wonderful in June and July thinking about a school year that would look and feel more normal. As we watched the spread of the Delta variant move across the country as the school year approached, our hearts sank.
Based on our community numbers and high vaccination rate, we felt beginning the year with masks being strongly recommended was the best decision. Now, not even two full weeks into the school year, we must make adjustments to avoid significant disruption. We are seeing schools in other areas like Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus already make changes. Closer to home, schools are making similar changes, canceling events due to large student/employee quarantines and taking steps like us to keep students in class. We can only control what we can and based on the spread and the quarantine guidelines, we are doing what we must to keep students in class and schools open.
Thomas L. Hosler
419-874-9131 ext. 2103