SUPERINTENDENT’S MESSAGE MARCH, 2020
IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO FAMILIES REGARDING COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS)
Dear Parents and Guardians,
The most important topic occupying everyone’s thoughts is unfortunately about the continuing spread of the Coronavirus. I wish to assure you that as a school district, we are continuing to monitor reports every day regarding the spread or potential exposure to this virus, especially in this area. As a county group, the Montgomery County Superintendents met this past week (the week of March 2) to discuss proactive measures that can be put into place to ensure the highest standards of care and cleanliness possible within our schools and facilities in our districts. We are working hard to ensure that we adhere to any recommendations put forth by our local Montgomery County Office of Public Health, which was present at our meeting this week to review the latest updates that they have, and to share the procedures and protocols that they have in place, as well as the assistance that they can provide, should an outbreak occur in this area.
As you are already most likely aware, Coronavirus is a relatively new virus that originated in December in China, and at present there is no vaccine or cure. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including death. It is possible that people can spread the disease before evening knowing that they have been exposed to it or show symptoms. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Spread of the virus can occur between individuals who have had close contact (within 6 feet) of one another, or from exposure to surfaces where the virus exists. The virus can live on certain surfaces from hours to days. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure, which unfortunately, is difficult to do without limiting your daily contact with other people. However, you can take certain measures, which include avoiding close contact with those who are sick or show symptoms, staying home from school or work if you become sick, avoiding touching your mouth, nose or eyes, and covering your mouth and nose if you cough with a tissue or elbow. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects. WASH hands frequently, and for at least 20 seconds, with soap (water temperature is not important, soap and scrubbing is!) In other words, COVER, CLEAN, WASH, AND CONTAIN.
In an effort to adhere to recommended standards of hygiene and cleanliness, we have asked our district’s cleaning company to implement stricter measures for daily cleaning. This includes more intensive daily cleaning of desks, chairs, hand rails, door handles, etc. We are also implementing daily wiping down of our school buses as part of our daily bus maintenance routine. We are also continuing to monitor daily information that comes to us, including notice of nearby infections, such as the recent decision of the Central Bucks School District to close 5 of its schools due to suspected exposure. The Montgomery County Office of Public Health has pledged to keep us informed should there be any cases identified within our county, so that we can take any necessary measures. These might include closing one or more schools. Should that have to happen, we will make that decision in conjunction with the Montgomery County Office of Public Health. We are therefore also working to develop contingency plans for student learning, including online offerings and assignments that can be completed through our existing online platforms. Superintendents have also shared concerns over this type of emergency response with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and have requested flexibility in terms of mandated student attendance and required school year days. The Montgomery County of Public Health is also recommending that families be prepared for any type of crisis situation, including having supplies on hand in the event of an imposed or self-quarantine. This includes essential items such as baby supplies, medicines, extended supplies of prescriptions, a first aid kit, thermometer, cases of water, pet supplies and food, and non-perishable food items.
With the upcoming spring break in April, we also know that many families have travel plans. At this time, we ask that any staff member(s), individuals, or families, take whatever precautionary measures that they can when traveling, to ensure their own safety and that of those with whom they may come into contact. Our district does not have any means of monitoring, controlling, or knowing who travels or where, however we do recommend that if you plan to travel at any time, not just over spring break, but on weekends as well, that you stay home if you become ill upon your return and seek medical attention. Should you travel, you might wish to consider bringing sanitary disinfecting wipes to wipe down seats or trays as a simple precautionary measure. We know that many airline carriers are amending their policies regarding cancellations and refunds – the determination of whether to travel or not is a personal family decision, as is any decision to self-quarantine upon return. Should that occur, we will work in tandem with any family regarding make-up of student work and our absenteeism policies.
I have included a fact sheet here from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services for your information, and am also listing several websites that you can access in order to learn more about Coronavirus along with continuing updates. Finally, please note that you can find additional recommendations from the World Health Organization on their website regarding coping with stress and anxiety during this heightened period of concern. I am hopeful that with the sharing of increased information about protective measures, and communication regarding impact on our region, we can all do our part to contain spreading of this virus and to remain healthy!
Thank you for your attention to this critical information.
Dr. Nancy Hacker, Superintendent
World Health Organization - https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
Center for Disease Control - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html
Pennsylvania Department of Health - https://www.health.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Montgomery County Office of Public Health - https://montcopa.org/
- Novel strain of coronavirus that was first discovered in December 2019. The first cases were found in China and have since spread around the world. Because it’s so new, we are still learning much about the virus. What we do know is that COVID-19 acts like other respiratory viruses like the flu.
- People who have COVID-19 sometimes get fevers, a cough, and have trouble breathing. A small number of people with the virus will require hospitalization, and some have died.
- COVID-19 is spread through the air when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes, or through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands. It also can spread if a person touches an object or surface that has COVID-19 on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.
- To date, there are no available vaccine or antiviral medications for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
WHAT IS MONTGOMERY COUNTY CURRENTLY DOING?
- Surveillance and Monitoring: We are working to contain the spread of COVID-19 by monitoring individuals who are high risk, and making recommendations for prevention measures as provided by CDC.
- Coordinating Testing: We are working closely with PADOH and health care providers to get individuals tested who meet CDC’s criteria for persons under investigation.
- Education and Outreach: Develop and distribute information about the latest information about COVID-19, prevention, and containment.
- Recommendations and Guidance: OPH has been continually issuing guidance developed by CDC and PADOH to the general public, schools, businesses and health care providers on what we can do to limit the spread of COVID-19, and protect our residents with a focus on vulnerable populations.
- Communication and coordination with county departments, communities, businesses and schools.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROCTECT YOUSELF?
- COVER any coughs or sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
- CLEAN surfaces that people touch often like doorknobs, counters, phones, or bathroom faucets. Be sure to follow the use instructions on the label of the cleaning solution.
- WASH your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available.
- CONTAIN: If you are sick, stay home and try to stay away from other people.
- PREPARE family emergency plans and preparedness kits using guidance from Ready.gov