The COVID-19 Pandemic has tested the limits of humanity. Differences in ideologies have split communities across the country. In our community, even though strong differences are realized, data suggests we are united in the idea that we should move forward with courtesy and reason.
Following the Town Hall meeting on 1/29, feedback from a Thought Exchange and two surveys have been carefully reviewed. The Venn diagram attached shows the split between groups in our community that participated in the exchange. The blue circle represents those who support the idea for ending the mask requirement, and the green represents those who support the continuation of masking.
Not only did the exchange show a nearly equal number of respondents from both groups, the ratings of the thoughts presented extreme differences. Thoughts appear to be primarily rated as 1-star or 5-star with few moderate-level ratings. In short, it showed people either very strongly aligned with the idea that masks be optional or very strongly aligned with the idea that masks should continue to be required. The common area (overlap) recognized the desire for all of us to be courteous and rational with differing views through this process.
While navigating the pandemic, the District has followed the recommendations of the CDC and NYS Department of Health with some recommended tweaks along the way (supported by our Medical Director). The district also lawfully complied with the mandates set by the Governor and the State Education Department. Currently, the Governor’s mask requirement in schools continues to be in effect. If, at some point, the Governor’s mask requirement no longer applies, schools will be required to follow potential requirements set by the State Education Department (SED).
It has been noted that some community members are looking for a clear and firm response regarding when masks will be optional. In response to this request, the District has consulted with its Medical Director, Dr. Nelson, to identify metrics and define the conditions in which the wearing of masks would be optional.
In order for masks to be optional, first, the Governor’s mask mandate in schools must be lifted. Second, SED must not require schools to continue masking. Last, no other ordinances our school district is required to adhere to, requiring people in schools to mask, are implemented. If these three prerequisites are met, the Morrisville-Eaton Central School District will allow masking to be optional if any one of the following conditions are met:
- The isolation rate (percentage of current confirmed positive cases resulting in isolation of students and staff)
is less than 3.0% within a school building.
- 42 days after the first day COVID-19 vaccines are made available to 3- and 4-year-old children.
- 70% of the students and staff of the school building have been fully vaccinated as defined by two weeks after two doses of any COVID-19 vaccine.
Regarding the condition above regarding isolation, the elementary has exceeded 3% only nine days this year. At the Middle/High school, we have remained below this threshold all but two days. The only period we experienced the higher levels was between December and January. To add perspective, the current infection rate is less than 1% at the Middle/High School and is 0% at Edward R. Andrews.
During the Town Hall meeting, I shared that the District’s local decision on masking would take into consideration the perspectives of our faculty/staff, the CDC and Department of Health guidance, the recommendations of medical experts, the reflections of parents/guardians, and the district’s legal authority. All these factors have been analyzed closely.
When the time comes that masks are not mandated in schools by NYS, SED, or any other governmental entity we are lawfully required to adhere to the mandates of, you are encouraged to consult with your doctor to determine what mitigation measures are recommended for you and your children. Until that time comes, however, the District’s Reopening Plan remains in effect including the requirement that everyone must wear a mask when indoors on the school campus.
I hope we are all able to recognize the complexity of this situation and respect each other’s differences. It is time to move forward with courtesy and reason as so eloquently captured in the Thought Exchange. Stay healthy and be safe!