November 6, 2020
Dear Staff, Families, and Students,
We are eagerly anticipating welcoming back our students into our schools next week. Although we know that there is some anxiety about coming back together, we are confident that throughout our district, we have excellent measures in place for those students whose families have chosen to have them return to in-person learning. Our staff has spent this entire week preparing for next week's re-entry of students. The technologies needed to assist with simultaneous delivery of lessons to students, both in and out of our buildings, are in place. Our teachers have prepared their classroom set-ups, with desks spaced safely apart, with appropriate PPE available. Our buildings are all cleaned and sanitized. In short, we are ready to go!
We remain optimistic that we can deliver hybrid instruction safely to those children who will be returning, but we are also mindful of and realistic about the news of increasing cases, both nationally and in our local region. We are still fortunate that case levels, measured by both incidence and positivity rates, are low in Montgomery County and in Springfield, but numbers are increasing. Incidence rates, a measure of positive cases per 100,000 individuals, in our area are now at 71.29, up from 20 a few weeks ago. Positivity rates, measured as a function of positive cases among those tested, average 4.93% county-wide. Guidance from doctors at the Children's Hospital of Phila. warns us that in colder weather, respiratory droplets can linger longer in the air, which can spark virus transmission. The colder months tend to bring more flu, colds, and other illnesses causing spread of germs, weakening immune systems and leaving many individuals more susceptible to the coronavirus. We know that many people are experiencing "Covid fatigue" and resulting increases in anxiety, stress, and inability to deal with Covid restrictions often lead to a relaxation of precautions.
Nonetheless, we must all continue to do what the doctors have called "surge planning and preparation". We have been assured by infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists that linked transmission events in schools tend to be low. Most transmission occurs outside of a school setting. But, we cannot let our guards down as we are planning to bring children into schools. We will continue to monitor a number of factors to ensure that it is still safe for our schools to remain open. These factors include a two-week steady increase in the incidence rate above 100/100,000 and positivity rates approaching 7% or higher, cases of classroom or building or local transmission, and other specific data about instances, such as parties, events, gatherings, or celebrations that could spark exposure or transmission and lead to a return to virtual instruction for any group of students, a classroom, building, or the entire district. We will continue to work in close conjunction with the Montco Office of Public Health to help us determine if conditions become unsafe and shutdown is needed.
All of the doctors continue to emphasize that the most effective strategies for combatting transmission include 1) the wearing of masks (we have communicated the recommended types of masks to wear), 2) continuous social distancing of at least 6 feet or more, and 3) frequent hand washing. While other measures, such as cleaning of surfaces and ventilation are important, they are not as significant in stopping the spread of the virus as the first three. We urge everyone to bear this in mind, especially as the holiday seasons are approaching. Please help us to keep our staff and children safe, and limit your potential exposures to others by following those three simple steps. We are all in this together! I remain optimistic that we all can do this, and that we can work as partners to allow our children continued opportunities to experience learning and coming together with teachers and classmates throughout the winter months.
Dr. Nancy Hacker