Dear Fellow Citizens of the Vinton-Shellsburg District,
This letter represents my thoughts alone and does not necessarily represent the opinion of other board members or an official position of the School Board.
School is back in session and we now have begun our third school year dealing with COVID. Despite the challenges and the unknown, last year quite frankly went about as well as possible given the circumstances. We kept kids safe (and largely healthy), we kept schools open, and we had a bit of normalcy for our kids in the midst of some extraordinary and stressful times. We did not do this alone; we did it with your help, as a community, and now we again need your assistance.
Like any community, we don't all see eye to eye all of the time, perhaps not even any of the time. We have different and strongly-held opinions and beliefs, but we went through a tough year together and remained civil and respectful of each other. Despite our differences, we all do have some things in common. We all want to keep our children safe, we all want kids to learn and we all want this to be over-- to return to some sense of normalcy. But understandably, we may see both the current situation and the answers as to how to accomplish these goals somewhat differently.
Despite a lot of time reading and talking to experts, there is much I still don't know. But here are some things that I do know:
* The Delta variant of this virus is much more likely to impact kids. It creates more symptoms in kids like runny noses, sneezing and coughing, which creates more spread. We are seeing that now.
* We believe we have experienced community spread in the schools this year. To the best of our knowledge, we are aware of no such instances last year. Spread we are unaware of may have occurred asymptomatically. But out of all the kids quarantined due to close contact with a positive person last year at school, not one of them subsequently tested positive during their quarantine.
* As I type this on the first day of September, we currently have 13 kids out with confirmed COVID cases. This is more than we had at any single point last year. Ten days into the school year, we have more kids out with COVID at one time than we did even last winter when the pandemic was at its peak. And the cold and flu season isn't even on us yet.
* The district continues to offer sanitation supplies, perform contact tracing and notification, and has testing kits available - but 6-foot physical distancing in our classrooms is not possible. And we do not mandate, but we do recommend masks be worn.
What can you do to help keep our kids safe and schools open?
* If your kids are sick, or exposed to someone who has COVID, please keep them home.
* Remind them to wash their hands and use hand sanitizers that we provide.
* When they are on the bus or at school, tell them that you want them to wear a mask, particularly when they are close to others and particularly if they are not vaccinated.
* If your kids are old enough to be vaccinated, please consider doing so.
By the time you read this, we will hopefully have our COVID data dashboard back up on the school website so you can see the number of cases and the impact COVID is having. There are all sorts of rumors starting to swirl around - many of which are not accurate or have become exaggerated. Right now, the sky is not falling. But as tired of this as we all are, the virus is still here and we are at a critical point very early in the school year. How we handle this as a community, not just as a school district, will impact our ability to keep kids in school, learning and safe.
Please stay well everyone.
President, VS School Board