Dear CCPS Families,
As you know, the decision around mask mandates and COVID mitigation measures returned to local control. It is important to us that our community understands the data we review, the protocols we use, and our increased partnerships that we focus on in our efforts to not only stay “safety centered”, but to protect in-person learning. We believe everyone understands a school district’s obligation and desire for “safety first” in any year. During a pandemic, you can imagine that commitment is amped up. CCPS continues our requirement for universal masking Preschool-12. This may be a relief for some, but we are fully aware that it will be disappointing to others for various reasons. All of which we understand and we hope you understand the gravity of these decisions that must be made for our district.
However, there are other reasons to share why we honor our commitment to our families and our community for in-person learning. First of all, can you believe that we are calling “school”, as we previously knew it, “in-person learning”? We must do everything we can to protect the opportunity for our staff and students to operate, as normally as possible, within the walls of our buildings in a safe manner. Learning is important and is definitely a priority; however, we all have this shared experience of isolation, frustration, stress, anxiousness, uncertainty, and other emotions that seemed to outweigh the moments of gratitude and stability during the “shut down” of our economy and our schools that began in March of 2020. In our homes and in our schools, we are learning about the negative impacts of isolation and lack of socialization had on our students’ mental health. Keeping our kids in school allows structure, routine, and most importantly, authentic relationships with friends and staff that care about them. Another perspective that weighs on our hearts and minds, as well around mental health, is the impact the pandemic has had on job loss. We understand our families need to be able to go to work without the stress of finding a babysitter or being put in a situation to leave a little one at home unattended. While we may experience students or staff being placed on quarantine, masking increases our commitment to in-person learning.
Parents took on the responsibility of being the teacher, principal, librarian, food service worker, PE or Arts teacher, and the technology department. This list really goes on and on. We don’t want to go back there. Simply put, the mask is one of the questions that we must use to determine quarantine restrictions for staff and students. As a whole, we work closely with Clark County Health Department to understand contact tracing for quarantine decisions. We need our teams (teachers, food service, nurses, transportation, etc) to be able to work so that we can safely operate. That isn’t going to happen if masks are not a requirement.
While our plan is to continue with universal masking on our buses and in our buildings, we have strengthened our plan with the following:
1. Increased collaboration and cross training between Clark County Health Department and our School Health teams. We are now assisting with contact tracing inside the schools to more quickly identify students that will need to be placed in quarantine per CDC guidance and our Health Department’s protocols.
2. Implementation of mask break guidance in large open or structured settings.
3. “Test to Stay” program that will allow a staff member or a student to return to school if placed in quarantine. A student or staff member will need to test and receive a negative result daily, during the quarantine period, to attend work or school. More information will be provided to students or staff when placed in quarantine for the off site location. This is a state funded program available to schools.