Health & Safety Information

March 2021 Health Guidelines Update

Healthy and Safety Measures in Place

CDC: School Decision Tree

CDC: Hygiene Practices

CDC: Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

CDC: Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

CDC: People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness

Recently, a few indicators have shown that we can move to five days of in-person learning for grades 7-12.

  • In grades 7 and 8, both cohorts O and C will combine and return to school for five full days a week starting April 12.
  • At the High School in grades 9-12, cohorts O and C will combine and return, together, on April 12. Students will attend for five early dismissal days a week, following their present schedule.

As mentioned in previous communications, the CDC said close contact means spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. The CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more — so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.

The district will work to keep 6 feet of social distance where possible, particularly at lunch for the Intermediate School, but in some classes, students may be spaced closer to 3 feet apart. The schools will work on room modifications to possibly increase space between students and staff.

Please know that all students will wear masks and face forward. The Intermediate School will have plexiglass barriers around their desks. We will monitor many factors to determine when we can take the next step to have High School students eat lunch in school.

Several factors contributed to the decision to combine cohorts in grades 7-12:

  • Just last week, a pivotal study was released in Infectious Diseases Society of America examining Massachusetts statewide K-12 and staff COVID-19 case rates. Data and study results show that lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in school settings with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff safety.
  • As a district that prioritizes mental health, we aim to provide our students with a more familiar routine, as we know that the consistency and reliability that come with a routine are key for mental health and wellness.
  • At the federal level, there is a strong directive that our schools should be prioritized for reopening as the number of vaccinated Americans rises and COVID-19 cases decline.
  • The April 12 return date gives our educators and school staff about a month to schedule and receive the COVID-19 vaccine after becoming a priority group for vaccinations on March 15.
  • The Cape May County Department of Health reported that the County had a 3.9% positivity rate from tests performed March 6. This marks the first time the County has been below 4% since Nov. 4.
  • The Rate of Transmission for COVID-19 continues to decrease in the County, meaning the spread of the virus is currently declining.
  • Given the most recent data showing less community spread, County health officials indicated that they would accept plans for review that help prioritize students' return to school with thoughtful health and safety precautions in place- even if all recommended COVID-19 mitigation measures cannot always be followed.

Please note that after we make that transition, we must continue to remain flexible to adjust to the possibility of rising cases of COVID-19 in our schools and/or community. That may include targeted closings for periods of recommended quarantines. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to follow health and safety guidelines to protect ourselves against the virus.

The concern remains that entire classes in grades 7-12 are at risk for periods of quarantine, because these classes will not be able to have students spaced 6 feet apart. As mentioned in previous letters, the guidelines for contact tracing have not - and are not expected to - change. A close contact is anyone within 6 feet of distance for 15 minutes or more of someone who has symptom(s) or tested positive. We weighed this risk and believe that it is lower now that community spread is trending downward.

Standard health protocols have not changed.

  • Do not enter any facility if you have a cough or fever.
  • Access to schools will be limited to students and staff as much as possible.
  • Maintain a minimum six-foot distance from other people when possible.
  • Wear a face covering. Disposable facemasks are available upon request.
  • Do not shake hands or engage in any unnecessary physical contact.

You continue to have our Virtual Academy as an option for your child if you feel more comfortable with fully remote learning over the new plan. Parents wishing to make this switch should contact your child's guidance counselor. If you have questions about your child's schedule and school's plan, please contact your child's Principal.

OCSD will continue to conduct regular screening and ongoing monitoring throughout each school day to help reduce exposure. Staff and student’s families will be encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms, which may include a fever of 100.4 or higher, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss/change of taste or smell, sore throat congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.  If a student develops symptoms throughout the day, he/she must notify an adult immediately. If a staff member develops symptoms throughout the day, he/she must notify their supervisor immediately. In the event that a student/staff member is running a fever, he/she will be isolated and sent home.  A student who is sick must be promptly picked up.

Student and staff, who become ill, are encouraged to seek treatment and consult with their personal healthcare provider or the Cape May County Health Department.

The most critical tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19 is for any student or staff member, who is ill or who has been exposed to someone confirmed to have COVID-19, to not attend work/school. The School District will follow the directions of the Cape May County Health Department and CDC guidelines when a staff member or a student, tests positive for COVID-19 and when he/she may return to school or work.

If a case of COVID-19 is confirmed for a staff member or a student, school personnel will communicate immediately to and collaborate with the Cape May County Health Department. Responses will be dictated by the specific nature of each case. School personnel will also communicate to the students and families as needed. The School District will follow all relevant student and health privacy laws when making disclosure for contact tracing and for notification to staff and families.

The School District will provide reasonable accommodations for staff and students in accordance at higher risk for severe illness and promote behaviors that reduce spread, such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the use of face coverings in accordance with best practices and applicable Board Policies. 

According to CDC Guidelines, individuals considered high-risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 include those with chronic complications including:

  • Chronic lung diseases or moderate to severe asthma 
  • Heart disease with complications 
  • Compromised immune system 
  • Other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease  

*This list is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive. Please consult with your physician

Please refer to the CDC documentation about people who are at increased risk for severe illness. 

Click here for a Mississippi Case Study from September - November 2020 on the spread of COVID in children and young adults 18 and under