October 28, 2020
Dear Northville Public Schools’ Families, Staff and Students,
I am writing today to provide an update on the current status of COVID-19 cases impacting our schools, and to make a plea for a stronger, more collective effort across our families and community to take the necessary steps to protect one another’s health and safety, and keep our students in school.
Over the course of September and October, we transitioned students and families choosing the in-person option back into our classrooms across the district very successfully overall, with our students, staff, and families demonstrating tremendous flexibility and adapting very quickly to following the health and safety protocols we have in place at school. The feedback from our students, teachers, staff and families has reaffirmed that our schools are vital to meeting the academic, social, emotional and physical needs of our students. The protocols in place in our classrooms and schools appear to be effective. We do not, thus far, have any evidence of positive cases of COVID-19 tracing back to exposure at school or during school hours, and the number of students quarantined as a result of close contacts at school has been minimal up to this point.
That said, in the past several days alone, a few cases of probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Northville High School students have resulted in a large, and growing number of student quarantines resulting from exposure outside of school. Several “homecoming” parties, including a party bus, were reported during contact tracing, with reportedly little evidence of mask wearing or physical distancing. Contact tracing also revealed that, in some cases, students who were supposed to be quarantined due to a family exposure still participated in out-of-school activities. At this point in time, two positive cases of COVID connected with these parties have resulted in over 75 quarantined students. The quarantines have impacted students at Northville High School, along with siblings at our middle and elementary schools.
We continue to work closely with the Wayne County Public Health Division on monitoring local COVID-19 cases, including contact tracing and quarantine protocols for cases impacting students and/or staff members. The Health Division provides a bi-weekly update on risk levels for community spread of COVID-19 across Wayne County, and provides guidance regarding the strict mitigation measures required to maintain in-person instruction.
The Wayne County Public Health Division has reviewed and approved Northville Public Schools’ COVID-19 Mitigation Plan for each of our current in-person instruction scenarios. The health department also issued guidance on 10/26/20, noting that in-person instruction can proceed with strict mitigation measures in place even in instances of increased community spread risk, as long as a district does not have any outbreaks as defined in the Wayne County Community Spread Matrix and has an approved COVID-19 mitigation plan.
Health officials further note that if the community spread risk continues at its highest level, the Wayne County Public Health Division will issue stricter guidelines that could include suspension of in person classroom learning in communities with sustained high levels of COVID-19 cases.
Student and school safety is a community effort. We know that in-person classes are the best way for our students to learn, and that school benefits their social, emotional and academic growth. We are doing all we can to keep our school buildings open and safe for students and staff. However, we can only control the mitigation practices and safety measures in place in our school buildings. We rely on our entire school community to work together to prevent the spread.
We encourage all members of our school community to adhere to recommended health and safety practices for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This includes wearing a face covering or mask when in proximity with others, practicing frequent hand washing, allowing for physical distancing whenever possible, staying home when sick, and watching for potential symptoms of illness before going to school (or anywhere) each day.
We are all mightily tired of dealing with this virus, and the impact that it has had on our children, our families and each other. We are seeing the impact of letting down our guard. As hard as it is, we urge everyone to give careful thought to working together as families, and as a community to avoid gatherings and other indoor activities that increase the spread of COVID-19, and to continue to seek ways in which we can safely navigate the coming months in a manner that protects everyone’s health and well-being, and keeps our students in school.
We remain grateful for your partnership as we work together with our students, staff, families and community to promote the learning, safety, health and well-being of all.
Mary K. Gallagher