The McFarland School District (MSD) has released more details on its COVID-19 protocols for 2021-22 as the school year kicks off Sept. 1.
The district shared the criteria, or metrics, it will use in determining when and if to revert from in-person learning back to virtual learning, as well as information about on-site COVID-19 testing.
This information comes on the tails of an Aug. 9 announcement from Interim Superintendent Wayne Anderson that face masks will be required to be worn inside district schools this fall, regardless of vaccination status.
MSD will partner with Fitchburg Family Pharmacy to conduct COVID-19 tests on school premises this year.
Anderson said the district was connected with the pharmacy through Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC).
If the district were to have an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, which is defined as multiple cases in the same classroom or building, the district would test all individuals identified as close contacts. Permission would still need to be granted by a parent or guardian.
A close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as anyone who was within six feet of a positive individual for 15 minutes or longer within two days prior to illness onset, regardless of whether masks were worn.
Tests done at school will take between two and three days for results, Anderson said.
In response to a question on why families would choose to be tested at school, instead of going to a healthcare provider for faster results, Director of Student Services Lauren Arango said it comes down to convenience.
“For some of our families, it’s much more convenient to have them tested here. They might not have a healthcare provider that they can call,” Arango said. “It’s just another option for families and… what I have noticed through the entire pandemic is that if we can offer more options and opportunities, that’s better for our families.”
MSD will continue to make daily updates to its COVID-19 dashboard on the district website.
Criteria used to decide if the district would revert from in-person instruction to virtual instruction will be the same metrics that were utilized last school year, Anderson said on Aug. 17.
“There did not appear to be a reason to change” the district’s approach to metrics, Anderson said. “It worked well for the district last year [and] there was no really discernible reason to change them.”Depending on grade level, those metrics are different.
For early childhood to eighth grade, three or more people in one grade level or five or more people within a school would need to test positive for COVID-19 within five days of one another to warrant further investigation from administration.
At the high school, five or more people within the school would need to test positive for COVID-19 within five days of one another before an investigation is launched.
The investigation would ultimately determine if a reversion in learning models is necessary.
Investigators would look at the relationships between the positive individuals, last date(s) of attendance at school, where the person or people were infected, the date they tested positive and vaccination status.
If a return to virtual learning was deemed necessary, the reversion would last for at least two weeks, district personnel said.
At an Aug. 16 school board meeting, concerns were raised on whether or not the metrics should be different this year due to an increased rate of vaccination, though Arango said the district will have some flexibility in its criteria.
“The beauty of our reverse metrics is that it’s not a hard and fast line,” Arango said. “We have a team that comes together and talks through all of the scenarios.”All district families will be notified when a positive case occurs at any of the district schools, Arango said.