2021-2022 School Year

We are all excited about returning to our classrooms and schools for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The COVID-19 virus continues to impact our lives, our neighbors’ lives, and our schools as we begin the new school year.


Our goal is to keep our students in school five days per week to provide instruction within a supportive learning environment while maintaining the health and safety of our students and staff.


In evaluating our options for the 2021-2022 school year, we used a variety of data points, the insights of public health agencies, and our experiences last school year and over the summer months. In continuing our conversations with local health agencies, watching the rapid increases in cases, monitoring our neighboring school districts that have already started school, and reviewing the updated quarantine protocols from the Ohio Department of Health, we recently reevaluated our masking protocols for buildings in which students are not eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19.


As we progress through this school year, we will continue our practice of working with health agencies and reviewing their guidance on safety protocols as well as utilizing SWCSD data and transmission rates, positive case rates, and the number of close contacts and quarantines of both students and staff members. If the data trends determine that we need to make changes to our protocols, following approved board of education action, we have the ability to adjust quickly. Our decisions are data-driven and as the data changes, our protocols may also change.

We will continue the layered safety protocols and mitigation strategies used last school year. Effective August 25, 2021, we will start the school year as follows:

Wearing a Mask Correctly

Mask Guidelines

We appreciate and understand that individuals have differing and strongly held beliefs regarding the wearing of face masks. We also know that we all want what is best for our students, staff, and community. Face masks are an integral layer of the protocols to reduce the number of students that are required to quarantine as a result of close contact. As of August 25, 2021:

  • All Pre-K through 6th-grade school buildings will require the use of face masks/face coverings by students, staff, and visitors in the buildings during school hours. Mask breaks will be provided when students are outside and appropriate distancing can be maintained.

  • Middle school and high school buildings will remain ‘mask friendly’ and we strongly encourage the use of masks by students and staff.

  • Per federal mandate, all individuals will be required to wear face masks/face coverings on school buses.

  • Masks are available upon request at each school building and on each school bus.


For middle school and high school families whose children have the choice of whether to wear a mask, we ask that you review the Ohio Department of Health’s quarantine guidelines. These guidelines direct schools to make quarantine determinations based on the use of masks and vaccination status.


As we move forward during the school year, district-wide changes in masking protocols will be based on the following data:

  • The proportion of COVID-19 cases in school-aged children in SWCSD

  • Positivity rates

  • Case counts

  • COVID-19 Analytics and Targeted Surveillance (CATS) data as it is available

  • Other data deemed relevant by local, state, and federal health agencies

Physical Distancing

  • Schools will reduce opportunities for exposure by practicing physical distancing to the greatest extent practical.

  • Schools may utilize strategies identified during the pandemic, such as cohorts, pods, modified arrival and dismissal procedures, restroom use, and creative use of space.

  • Practices, least intrusive to the educational process, will be utilized.

  • Modified arrival and dismissal procedures may be utilized and could include:

    • Monitored doors to minimize the number of persons touching the doors.

    • Boarding & exiting school buses utilizing social distancing protocols.

    • Staggered arrival and dismissal procedures to limit the number of students in the hallways at a particular time.

Cleaning & Maintaining Healthy Facilities

Best practices will be followed when cleaning and disinfecting high tough/traffic areas. Sanitization equipment will continue to be used as needed.

Morning:

  • Disinfect high contact/traffic areas and student restrooms after student arrival

  • Monitor and restock sanitization supplies

  • Disinfect clinics

Lunch:

  • Clean & sanitize lunch tables after each group

  • Disinfect cafeteria entry & exit after each group

  • Disinfect high contact points & restrooms (prior to and following lunch periods)

Afternoon/Evening:

  • Clean & disinfect all bathrooms

  • Disinfect all student/teacher desks, chairs & furniture (minimum of Tuesdays & Thursdays & as needed)

  • Disinfect reception area, building entries & exits

  • Monitor & restock sanitization supplies


Building entries, exits, and reception areas will be sanitized after student arrival and dismissal and as needed throughout the day. We will be utilizing the misting sanitization machines throughout each building a minimum of twice weekly.


The use of MERV 13 filters and increased fresh air induction will continue, maximizing the indoor air quality. (Including improving ventilation)

Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette

  • Proper sneezing and coughing techniques will continue to be taught and emphasized throughout the school day. (arm or inner elbow). Sneeze Guards/Clear Barriers are available if needed.

  • Hand sanitizer will continue to be available in common areas of the buildings, classrooms, and on school buses.

  • Students are encouraged to bring individual water bottles to school with them. These can be filled using the water bottle filler stations in each building.

  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer will be practiced in all schools.

Transportation

  • All students will have assigned seats on school buses with a maximum of two students per seat unless they are from the same family.

  • Face masks are required to be worn by students, staff, and school bus drivers on all school buses per federal requirements. If a student does not have a mask, one will be provided to them.

  • Buses will be populated from the back to the front and students will disembark the bus from the front to the back.

  • Hand sanitizer is available on all school buses.

  • Transportation staff will disinfect buses between routes.

Food Service

  • Students may have assigned seats in the cafeteria or eat in their classrooms. This varies from grade level to grade level.

  • The United States Department of Agriculture has extended Free Meal Benefits (breakfast and lunch) to ALL students through the end of the 2021-2022 school year. This means that all students can receive one breakfast meal and one lunch meal per day at no cost. Any additional meals and/or a la carte items can be purchased in our kitchens.

  • Serving lines are sanitized in between class lines.

  • Hand sanitizer is available in all cafeterias.

  • Farmers, truckers, packers, manufacturers, distributors, and ultimately many schools will struggle with food item availability. Our purchasing cooperative is currently working with all segments of the supply chain, across all sectors, regarding food product availability.

What does this mean for our cafeteria offerings?

1. What has historically been listed on the menu may not be available in sufficient quantities to serve our entire student population.

2. Menus may change frequently due to the supply and availability of food items.

3. We will continue to serve balanced and healthy meals in our cafeterias.

Thank you for your understanding and flexibility as we work to provide healthy meal choices to our students.

The SWCSD Food Services Department

Building Protocols

  • Visitors and volunteers will continue to be allowed in school buildings. Individuals seeking to enter a school building will need a purpose that is essential to the activities currently taking place within the school. Face masks/coverings will be required at all times in PreK-6 school buildings.

  • Arrival & Dismissal Protocols from last school year may be used this school year.

  • Movement in many hallways may be one-way whenever possible.

  • Depending upon the grade level of the building, additional protocols may be used.

Contact Tracing & Quarantine Guidelines

COVID vaccinations are recommended, but not required. Ohio Department of Health guidelines will continue to be followed for quarantine procedures and contact tracing. Fully vaccinated students and staff without symptoms are not required to quarantine as a result of close contact. An ODH quarantine flowchart can be found HERE.

The SWCSD weekly dashboard can be found HERE

Athletics & Extracurricular Activities

We will continue to follow OHSAA and the guidance as issued by the Ohio Department of Health.

  • We encourage the use of pods and spacing protocols to deter the spread of the virus and reduce the need for quarantine teams and/or larger groups of students.

We continue to keep student safety at the forefront of our decision-making process. These are the protocols as of the start of school but if the information and guidance from our local health agencies changes, our plans could also change.


Below are some frequently asked questions that we hope will be helpful to you as we also focus on student safety:

Frequently Asked Questions

(As of August 25, 2021)

Q: What changed and why are masks only required for students in grades PreK-6? What is the threshold to allow students in grades PreK-6 the option of wearing masks? Could the requirement be extended to middle and high school students.?

A: Our goal is to provide in-person instruction five days a week to the greatest number of students possible. As community conditions and the conditions within the school

district change, we may also need to make adjustments to help achieve this goal. We use several pieces of data in the decision-making process.

These include

  • The proportion of COVID-19 cases in school-aged children in SWCSD

  • Positivity rates

  • Case counts

  • COVID-19 Analytics and Targeted Surveillance (CATS) data as it is available

  • Other data deemed relevant by local, state, and federal health agencies

On August 17, in addition to the increasing cases and close contacts, during a joint press conference, Ohio Governor DeWine and Director of the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Vanderhoff made a plea for schools to institute masking requirements. They said:


“If that child cannot be vaccinated, then the best way to ensure a good school year is for that child to wear a mask in class,” said Governor DeWine.


“Delta isn’t just a danger to adults. While children are less likely than adults to get severely ill from COVID-19, they are not invincible and most certainly can, and do, become ill. And, indeed, our children’s hospitals continue to see tragic cases of previously healthy children struck down by this virus and now requiring intensive medical care. And, of course, when either children or adults become sick from COVID-19, they can spread it to others who may then suffer severe health outcomes or even death, said Dr. Vanderhoff. “The bottom line is that COVID-19 is a very bad virus, even for our children. Without question, vaccinations are the best protection one can have from COVID-19.”


Governor Dewine followed up the press conference with this tweet. “To all those who are making decisions right now about our schools, if you are not requiring masks, please think about this again. At the very least, consider requiring masks for the next few weeks when we know the spread level will be very high,” said Governor DeWine.


We learned during last school year that as the community case rate increases so do the number of cases in our schools and the number of students that need to quarantine. Since vaccines are not available to our PK- 6 students, masks become the primary decision point for quarantine purposes. In a mask optional environment, contact tracing becomes even more difficult, ultimately leading to more individuals being quarantined, thus defeating our goal.


Since our students in grades 7-12 have the option of receiving the vaccine, we chose to simply reinforce the recommendation of public health and not mandate masks at this time. If case rates continue to increase or a large number of students are forced to quarantine, we may revisit the decision to mandate masks for grades 7 - 12.


As the number of vaccinated individuals changes, case rates improve, the positivity rate normalizes, and our experience base grows during the school year, we will be in a better position to consider returning to a mask optional environment.


Q: Does the district offer mask-only classrooms at the middle and high schools?

A: Based on course offerings and the individual academic needs of students, this is not a practical option. The layered protocols we have in place, which include a strong recommendation for mask-wearing and physical distancing, significantly reduce risk and the possible need to quarantine without compromising academic options. As circumstances and beliefs change, so might a student or parent’s decision to wear a mask in a mask-friendly environment.


Q: What does it mean to have 'mask breaks' at recess?

A: We follow CDC guidelines and do allow students to remove their masks at recess, but ask them to keep their masks on when they are in close proximity with other students. The CDC guidelines include:

    • Recess is considered an extension of the classroom environment. Maintain the protocols for 3 feet social distance outside (with a goal of 6 feet) when students are at play in groups and/or in close contact.

    • Mask breaks are appropriate when controlled and social distance can be maintained.

    • When students are taking masks off at recess, it is important that there is a procedure in place to maintain social distance outside during the school day to the greatest extent possible. Stated simply, recess cannot be a 'free for all' with no masks for the safety of our students.

If you have questions, please contact your child's building principal for further clarification.


Q: How does the school district confirm or verify vaccination status?

A: Parents are welcome to volunteer their child’s vaccination status for quarantine purposes. School nurses may also coordinate with Franklin County Public Health concerning quarantine requirements. If vaccine status cannot be verified, the individual will need to quarantine according to ODH guidelines.


Q: Why is SWCSD not offering VLA this school year?

A: Last year, SWCSD provided the Virtual Learning Academy for approximately 2,365 students. We were given permission to offer this option as a result of House Bill 164, which gave public school districts in the State of Ohio the flexibility to offer a fully online school experience as an emergency measure. HB 164 expired and as a result, we do not have the ability to offer this option to our students and families in the same manner as last school year. Additionally, HB 110 went into effect this school year and created stronger restrictions that push schools towards in-person/traditional modes of instruction five days per week.


In addition, as a collective, our students choosing the virtual option last school year did not perform as well on state assessments and classroom grades. Creating this option also resulted in limiting curricular options for many students.


Q: If the district isn’t offering VLA this school year, what are my options?

A: The Ohio Department of Education provides various school options at http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohio-Education-Options.


Q: What does the school board resolution authorizing the superintendent to require face coverings for students, staff, and visitors accomplish? Has the board of education given away its authority?

A: The resolution allows the superintendent to enforce and quickly pivot based on circumstances to prevent the spread of communicable diseases for the safety of students and staff. The board has the ability to rescind, revise, or override decisions at any time.


Q: Is the district using sneeze guards on desks or lunch tables?

A: Sneeze guards (individual plastic dividers) are available for use in each building.


Q: How will the learning process be supported when a student is quarantined?

A: Schoolwork will be treated as it has always been treated for any type of multi-day excused absence. The teacher should be able to provide students with content/assignments to stay current with their work.


Q: What mask exemptions are available to parents?

A: There are two types of exemptions available to parents. These are the same exemptions that were in place last school year.

  • To request a religious exemption, parents may submit a written request for accommodations or exemptions based on sincerely held religious beliefs to Amber Hufford (amber.hufford@swcsd.us) and Dr. Jamie Lusher (jamie.lusher@swcsd.us) for review and vetting. These requests should include the reason for the accommodation, contact information for the church, and religious entity. These requests will be reviewed and vetted as they are received.

  • To request a medical waiver for the mask requirement, parents should submit a request that includes medical documentation and their physician's contact information to Amber Hufford (amber.hufford@swcsd.us) and Dr. Jamie Lusher (jamie.lusher@swcsd.us). This will start the medical exemption process.


Q: Does the district intend to require COVID vaccinations for students or staff?

A: The district strongly encourages eligible individuals to get vaccinated. At this time, we are not requiring a COVID vaccination to attend or work in our schools.


Q: Are latchkey children required to wear masks?

A: These programs are not held during school hours and are voluntary. They are also not SWCSD programs and are subject to the sponsoring latchkey organization's protocols and procedures..


Q: Can I select a vaccinated teacher for my child?

A: We are prohibited from sharing the vaccine status of students and staff due to FERPA and HIPAA regulations.


Q: Isn’t the requirement for students in grades PK-6 discriminating against those who cannot receive the vaccine (HB244)?

A: As a public school district in the state of Ohio, we have a compelling state interest in health and safety and the prevention of infectious disease. Currently, there is a federal mandate from the Centers for Disease Control that requires all persons to wear face masks on any mass transportations, including school buses (https://www.cdc.gov/). The board resolution authorizing the Superintendent to require facial coverings is grounded by Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.67.