Weekly Family Update

Weekly Family Update
Posted on 10/16/2020

10/23/2020 Update
The last two weeks have been challenging for some families as they wrestled with making the best choice for their children’s learning option for second semester, especially as the COVID-19 advisory alert system moved Warren County from orange to red. 

Watch this important video message from Warren County Combined Health District’s Dustin Ratliff and Superintendent Jonathan Cooper about what Ohio’s COVID-19 advisory alert system means (and doesn’t mean) for schools, where COVID spread is occurring in our community, how contact tracing is conducted in our schools, and what we can all to do slow the spread. 

video - click

Over 500 families chose to switch learning options for second semester. At MECC, 92 chose to switch to in-person learning and 3 chose to switch to online learning; at ME 56 chose to switch to in-person learning and 5 chose to switch to online learning; at MI 81 chose to switch to in-person learning and 12 chose to switch to online learning; at MMS 105 chose to switch to in-person learning and 16 chose to switch to online learning; at MHS 98 chose to switch to in-person learning and 69 chose to switch to online learning.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 8 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 19-23, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 9 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 21 staff quarantines, and 95 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

I wasn’t able to make my request to switch options before the deadline. Can I still switch?
We are sorry to hear that some families were unable to make their decision until after the deadline had passed. We asked all of our families to be sure that they made their family choice for the second semester by Monday night at 11:59PM. As we have shared in our previous communications to families, the timeline is in place so that we can plan for staffing, allocation of resources, make appropriate placements for our students, etc. There are so many details that happen behind the scenes to pull off this enormous lift in the middle of the school year. In order for us to carefully tend to every personal family situation and choice, we can only honor the switch requests that came in before the deadline in order to have enough time to execute a second semester plan with fidelity.


What happens if Warren County goes purple? How are you making decisions?
Back in July, when Governor DeWine first introduced the color-coded advisory system, we believed this was the system that Ohio schools would use as the main decision making tool for in-person learning options. As we continued working closely with the Warren County Health District, Hamilton County Health Department and Governor DeWine and his team into the early fall, we were told not to use this tool as our main decision making tool. On September 4, we shared with families that a change in color code alone would not automatically trigger a change to the in-learning option. While we continue to analyze and monitor the seven indicators of the advisory alert system as one of our data sources, we also include many local data points in our daily comprehensive data review process. All of these data factor into decisions about moving to and from hybrid or remote learning. 

Consequently, if Warren County is moved to purple, that will not automatically trigger a move to Remote Learning for in-person learners. Instead, any shifts to our in-person learning option would also be tied to local school data that is part of our MCS operational impact index. Those data points include illness absence rates at each school and as a district, number of student and staff COVID+ cases at each school and as a district, number of student and staff quarantine cases at each school and as a district, and ability to staff with substitute teachers/bus drivers/custodians at each school.  

Will MHS be part of Ohio’s rapid test pilot program?
After 10 weeks of in-person learning, our data and experience has shown that the nearly 1,000 Mason High School students who had to quarantine due to close contact exposure in class (closer than 6 feet for 15+ minutes while wearing a face mask) have not contracted COVID-19. Even when they show no symptoms and test negative, they must stay home for 14 days. This creates a burden on our educators, and significant hardships academically and socially for these students. 

Superintendent Jonathan Cooper has been in weekly conversations with Ohio Department of Health Director Lance Himes and Governor Mike DeWine to consider quarantine criteria that might better apply to the controlled school setting. Gov. DeWine’s team is considering MHS as a test site for a low-risk rapid test and return protocol that could significantly lessen the number of students who would need to quarantine if they volunteer to be tested and test negative. The hope is that this pilot could begin in November. 

View WLWT and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s coverage of this issue. 

I’m hearing about some troubling social media behavior in our tweens and teens, where students are sending very hurtful and inappropriate messages to each other. What can be done?
Our school administrators have seen an uptick in the number of online and in-person students reporting disturbing messages primarily sent on Snapchat after school hours where students may say things like “nobody likes you” or request inappropriate photos. One popular add-on to Snapchat that many students use is YOLO, which allows students to interact anonymously with each other on Snapchat. We strongly discourage the use of apps and add-ons that allow for anonymous exchanges; the temptation to say inappropriate things is strong when you believe no one will know you are the messenger. Learn more from Cincinnati Children’s about how online safety requires a mix of monitoring and teaching. 

What are these shoebox floats?
Mason High School’s Student Government invites families, local businesses, and community & school organizations to enter their own “ShoeBox” float as a part of this year’s Homecoming festivities. This year’s theme is Mason MASKarade - and we can’t wait to see the parade of shoebox floats as we celebrate Homecoming as a community. Send a picture of your shoebox float to  shoeboxfloats@gmail.com and/or drop off your family or organization’s float in the Mason High School main entrance vestibule between 7am - 1pm on Sunday!

How can we support our commUNITY?
Mason & Deerfield Community Unity DaysCelebrate our community on Saturday, October 24th! Start the day off at Deerfield Towne Center for the Treat Street Drive-Thru. The community will then be encouraged to stay for lunch or a snack at the many delicious dining options at the center before heading to downtown Mason for the CommUNITY Car Parade. 



10/16/2020 Update
Yesterday, Governor Mike DeWine announced that Warren County’s COVID-19 spread has been upgraded to a level 3 (Red) under the public health advisory. The Governor and Warren County Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury have both noted that the increase in community spread has not come from schools, but instead the source has been family gatherings, weddings, funerals, get togethers with friends, sports teams hanging out after practice, and workplaces becoming more lax in following precautions. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share how MCS continues to monitor multiple data points, and that there will not be a shift to hybrid or RLE at this time.

Mason City Schools’ in-person learners will continue to come to school in-person, five days a week as we continue to monitor multiple data points. The county color alert system is only one data point that we use to inform our decision making. Unless our local health department tells us otherwise, or we see a significant shift in our data, we will stay the course. If there are any immediate changes to our current protocols, we will communicate them right away.

 



Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 6 students and 3 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 12-16, 2020, we had 13 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 14 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 25 staff quarantines, and 164 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

What data points are you considering as you determine if a change in the in-person learning option is needed?
Mason City Schools leaders, in consultation with local and state public health officials, are considering multiple data points, and one data point is not necessarily sufficient to make a switch to hybrid or Remote Learning. Factors we examine daily and weekly include student and staff positive case rates, staff and student quarantine rates, student and staff absentee rates, sub availability, community spread rates, and access to PPE and cleaning supplies.

I thought we were going to go to hybrid as soon as we went to red? What changed?
Governor DeWine unveiled the color-coded state Ohio Public Health COVID advisory system on July 2nd. This tool was designed to help communities be aware of trends in the 7 indicators. In the absence of other tools and data, many Ohio school districts initially considered tying in-person learning options to the various color codes. Governor DeWine, and state and local public health officials have since advised school districts to use multiple data points - including school positive cases.  Today we have more experience and 10 weeks of data to inform our decisions.


“We have 13 new red counties today. Our local health department officials have told us this week that our schools are doing a good job. But what they are seeing is spread from social gatherings,” tweeted Governor DeWine yesterday. 


Do I need to fill out the Learning Option change form if I don’t plan to change?
No. Only families who are requesting a change need to fill out the Learning Option Change Request form. 

Remember, due to the complexity of making changes mid-year, all requests to change options for second semester must be submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, October 19. Click here to request a learning option change. We will not be able to honor any requests to change options that are submitted after the deadline. Change requests that meet the deadline will begin on the first day of second semester, Monday, January 4, 2021.  

Will MMS and MHS online students have more opportunities to come to school to take certain classes, or get synchronous electives during second semester?
No. We cannot accommodate students coming into the building and maintain safety guidelines especially with the amount of contact tracing that is occuring at the high school. All MMS and MHS electives will be asynchronous. 

For a complete description of the online learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

Any word on how the 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option (like a voluntary quarantine) for MHS in-person students is going?
Since offering the temporary remote learning option, we have nearly 200 athletes and musicians who are doing this in order to avoid a quarantine that is required if seated within 6 feet of a positive case while in class. These Marching Band students and athletes want to be in school, but do not want to miss important culminating postseason events. Adding these voluntary remote learners to our nearly 200 MHS students who are in quarantine is becoming a steep logistical burden for our high school educators. We remain committed to coming up with a solution. Our teachers and the high school administrative team are working together to come up with a solution for the second quarter of first semester that will better serve students and their educators. 

What can we do to help keep in-person learners in school?
This is a great time for everyone to follow our safety protocols with fidelity at all-school sponsored events and other social settings throughout the community.

- Mask Up - Nose and Chin covered 
- Wash Hands (20 seconds) often and Use Hand Sanitizer
- Disinfect High Touch Areas 
- Maintain Physical Distance

What should I do if my child needs emotional support or mental wellness support, but doesn’t know where to go for help?
Historically, 1 in 5 students suffer from a mental health disorder. Since the pandemic started, national experts say that has increased to 1 in 2 students. In Mason, we have seen an uptick in the numbers of students and families seeking mental health care. If your child needs help, you or they should reach out to your school counselor or building mental wellness coordinator, use the SafeSchools tip line to self-refer, or call the Warren County Crisis Unit at (877) 695-6333. 

How can we support our commUNITY?
ShineLikeSableHonor the memory of former Mason student Sable Gibson. On October 21st, families are encouraged to spread positivity and kindness by doing a good deed for a neighbor or stranger. Share your random act of kindness on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with #ShineLikeSable.

10/9/2020 Update
Schools and families have more data, information and experience than any of us had back in July when we were making return to learn plans. Anticipating that, in the summer we shared that families would have the opportunity to change options at the semester break. Due to the multiple impacts of option changes on students and staff, we encourage families to remain in their current learning option for the remainder of the school year.
That said, we recognize that for some families there may be a need to request a different learning option for the second semester. There are considerable complex factors when changing learning options in the middle of the year. As a result, students requesting a change will likely have different course selections and teachers than they had in the first semester, or that they requested in spring 2020. Additionally, if there are significant requests to change from one learning option to another in a particular school or grade level, those changes will also impact families who have not requested to change their learning option.

Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing why it is so complex to switch learning options, and some of the potential implications of those changes. 

Request Learning Option Change 
Due to the complexity of making changes mid-year, all requests to change options for second semester must be submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, October 19. Click here to request a learning option change. We will not be able to honor any requests to change options that are submitted after the deadline. Change requests that meet the deadline will begin on the first day of second semester, Monday, January 4, 2021.  

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 14 students and 6 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 5-9, 2020, we had 7 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 14 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 29 staff quarantines, and 160 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 


Why do we have to make the decision to switch so early?
We recognize that October 19th feels early. When a student requests a switch, multiple systems must adapt in response, including staffing, scheduling, transportation, and food service. This is typically work that happens throughout the spring and summer in preparation for the new school year, and our teams take every day possible to prepare for a smooth transition. An October 19 deadline provides significantly less time to prepare for second semester than teams would typically have, while they also tend to all of their duties to support students while school is in session.

In addition, having just some students make mid-year switches creates a new layer of complexity that is new to all of us, and that our scheduling systems are not designed to handle. If we have a significant number of students request a switch, it will be the equivalent of having a large influx of students transfer from a different school district. Depending on the number of requests, this will require considerable time to execute with accuracy. 

What if I don’t switch, but many other people do?
Unfortunately, other people’s decisions could impact students who remain in their current learning option. For example, if a significant number of elementary students switch from online to in-person learning, remaining online students may end up with a different teacher if their current online teacher needs to be switched to in-person to serve an influx of in-person learners. And, if a significant number of secondary students switch from in-person to online learners, in-person teachers may need to go online in order to support those learners which could change students’ current schedules.

For these reasons, we encourage families to give any request to switch serious consideration and to request the switch only if there has been a significant change in circumstance that requires a change. 

What are some of the implications of requesting a change to in-person learning for my child?

  • they will not be able to switch back to online learning
  • they may experience quarantine (missing school for at least 14 days due to exposure to someone who is COVID+)
  • they will likely have a different teacher(s), including intervention and support staff
  • they could repeat a specials selection (K-6)
  • course availability will be limited and it is likely that course preferences will not be able to be honored, including AP and honors courses (7-12)
  • even if a student is dissatisfied with their schedule or teacher, requests to change options will not be able to be honored after October 19, 2020
  • they could learn in a hybrid or remote learning environment if school/community data requires a shift  

For a complete description of the in-person learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

What are some of the implications of requesting a change to online learning for my child?

  • they will not be able to switch back to in-person learning
  • they will likely have a different teacher(s), including intervention and support staff
  • they could repeat a specials selection (K-6)
  • course availability will be limited and it is likely that course preferences will not be able to be honored, including AP and honors courses (7-12)
  • even if a student is dissatisfied with their schedule or teacher, requests to change options will not be able to be honored after October 19, 2020

For a complete description of the online learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

What if there is a change in the quarantine rules that comes after the deadline?
We are very encouraged by Governor DeWine’s announcement this week that he has asked his team to partner with the health/scientific community to study the current guidance on student quarantine. We are hopeful Mason High School will be one of 10 Ohio schools who will run frequent strip COVID-19 tests of those individuals who would normally be quarantined. Our understanding is that if students needed to quarantine due to close contact (closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) they would have the option to participate in the strip testing rather than automatically quarantining for 14 days. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to examining the issue, and getting more data and evidence. Still, we also recognize that any long-term change to the rules will not happen soon, and likely not before the October 19th deadline. Families will need to make a decision based on what we know now.


What if we get a vaccine? Could we end up all in-person then?
Even if there is a vaccine available before the end of the school year, students whose families chose online learning will remain in that option.

Will there still be a 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option (like a voluntary quarantine) for MHS in-person students who have qualified for post-season competitions or performances?
If the quarantine rules would change, we may no longer need to offer the 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option for in-person MHS students who have qualified for post-season competitions or performances. We will evaluate the current pilot’s effectiveness and impact and use that data to inform future decisions. 

I just got my absentee ballot. What are Issues 13-21?
There are 9 issues related to levies that were previously approved by Mason City Schools’ voters on the November 2020 ballot. Each issue proposes to reduce district revenue by 0.01 mills. These issues were not placed on the ballot by the Mason City School District’s Board of Education.  Voting Yes for the issue reduces the district’s local revenue. Voting No against the issue maintains the district’s local revenue.

How can we support our commUNITY?
HOMECOMING 2020:  MHS STUGO, MHS and Mason City Schools cordially invite families, local businesses, and community & school organizations to enter a “ShoeBox” float as a part of this year’s Homecoming festivities. This year’s theme is Mason MASKarade - and we can’t wait to see the parade of shoebox floats. Homecoming Week is October 26-30th.  We’d love to see your family’s float and show our commUNITY spirit during HOCO 2020! Send pictures of your family’s float to HOCO2020@masonohioschools.com. 


10/2/2020 Update
The City of Mason was recently named one of the 50 best places to live in the US by
Money Magazine. Congratulations to local businesses, City partners, schools and neighbors who contribute so much to Mason Quality. Our CommUNITY is always #1 to us!


Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing answers to some of your questions about Governor DeWine’s interest in our data and implications for quarantine, steps we’re taking to try to keep the 532 students who have been on quarantine from having to do that for a second time, patterns we have noticed with positive cases, how online families will take state tests, and supports for online and in-person learners who may be struggling with our “new normal.”
 

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 3 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of September 14-October 2, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 4 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 10 staff quarantine, and 113 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Many of you have expressed an interest in viewing Mason City Schools cumulative COVID-19 data. With two months of school under our belts, we thought it might be helpful to begin sharing this at the end of each month. 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

What is the district doing to try to keep MHS students from being quarantined for a second time due to close contact exposure?
The high school has come up with a number of short-term solutions, as we continue to ask elected officials to consider the science and data from two months of being back to school, and the implications that none of our close contact, in-school quarantines have turned into positive cases. For students who have already been on quarantine, teachers are working to try to give them preferential seating so that they are 6 feet apart when seated. MHS is also creating a Quarantine room that students can elect to go to so that they can still have time to access their teachers, but remain in a separate environment with 6 feet of distance guaranteed. Finally, the high school is temporarily allowing students involved in post season interscholastic competition to voluntarily quarantine for 2 weeks so that they do not have to miss an important game or performance.

Some online families have reported quite a bit of variance in how long it takes their students to complete their work. What’s “normal”?
In-person learners also often learn at different paces. When we look at survey data from our online learners, it’s almost a perfect bell curve of students sharing that their work is too hard, just right and too easy. If your child is routinely finishing very quickly, check out some of the optional activities that they can do, encourage them to read, explore an interest offline, or reach out to your child’s teacher. If they are routinely struggling with completing work and it seems too difficult, please reach out to your child’s teacher.

Do the cleaning products you’re using cause clothing stains?
As part of our enhanced daily cleaning procedures, we use a product called Vital Oxide on surfaces after each lunch, and at the end of the day - though some educators have used it more frequently in their classrooms. Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant cleaner, mold and mildew killer, and odor eliminator. With its ready-to-use formula designed to be gentle to users but tough on germs, Vital Oxide is non-irritating to skin, non-corrosive to most treated articles, NSF-certified (no rinse required) for food-contact surfaces, and listed as a category IV (lowest toxicity category) pesticide with the EPA. We have had a few issues with clothing stains when people sit in a spot where Vital Oxide has pooled.  We have reminded staff to make sure that it is not pooled before students sit down, and to only use the district’s cleaning products.

How can we support our commUNITY?
WLWT Day of Giving: On Thursday, October 8th Mason City Schools will participate in Channel 5’s Day of Giving. You can TEXT TO GIVE from the station’s website and social media on October 8th, or you can choose to make a donation of canned chicken or chili, mac & cheese cups, canned fruit, or dry pasta to the Comet Cupboard at the Mason Intermediate Circle from 4-6PM.

9/25/2020 Update
Yesterday during his press conference, Ohio Governor DeWine shared that he asked his team to look at Mason City Schools data, and consider that controlled K-12 school settings where everyone wears a mask may warrant a different approach to quarantine. The Governor also signalled that there may not be an answer to our quarantine dilemma soon. 


Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing that after being in school for 5 weeks while we haven’t seen an uptick in positive cases of COVID-19, we do have a concerning trend with the number of Mason High School students who have been in quarantine. When students are in quarantine they are at risk of missing weeks of in-person learning which impacts their mental wellness, academic success and extracurricular opportunities.  We could need to move to a hybrid schedule for Mason High School soon if we do not find relief to this issue.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 7 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. We have 292 students who have returned to school after being quarantined.  At the end of the week of September 21-September 25, 2020, we had 2 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 8 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 1 staff quarantine, and 191 student quarantines.