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School Operations Plan Update

August 30, 2021 -- Dear VHCS family,

From the outset of the school year, we committed to the goal of keeping students in school and in a healthy environment. We also committed to adjusting our plan when there are challenges to achieving that goal. Our staff has done a tremendous job of maintaining a healthy environment through physical distancing, measures that promote indoor air quality, cleaning/disinfecting, and providing for the healthcare needs of our students. I am appreciative of all of their extraordinary efforts. Fortunately, our positive rate of students is comparable to that of other school systems in the area. Unfortunately, there continues to be an increasing number of students who are absent from school for close contacts.

During the week of August 23-27, 142 students (2.02% of in-person enrollment) were absent at least one day because of a reported positive diagnosis and 357 students (5.08%) were absent because of a close contact. 93 students were absent on Friday, August 27 because of a positive diagnosis. COVID-related daily absences averaged 4.72% and total daily absences averaged 9.12% last week. In a typical non-pandemic year, our average daily absences are generally 4%. You can view our full COVID-19 Dashboard by clicking here. 

As you can see, the majority of students who are absent are out of school because of close contacts. Most of those students are not testing positive as a result of close contact at school. This means that many of our students are unnecessarily missing a significant amount of time away from school.

With this in mind, we will change our plan from strongly encouraging masks to requiring masks while indoors for all students, staff, and visitors effective Wednesday, September 1, 2021. Exceptions to wearing a face mask may be granted if a medical condition or disability prevents it; a note from the students’ physician is required and must be provided to the school nurse. 

Moving forward, schools will notify parents only when their student has had a possible exposure. Students and staff will be required to stay home only if they are positive or have COVID-19 symptoms. Students and staff who are currently absent or on leave for close contact will return after the 10 calendar days from when they were sent home. A negative test or antibody test does not allow anyone to return before the 10-day period. 

I want to emphasize a few additional points critical to the success of our plan:

  • Students and staff are to stay at home when they have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Be vigilant in washing hands and using proper hygiene etiquette when coughing or sneezing. 
  • Consider vaccination in consultation with your healthcare provider. 

Our goal remains to keep students in school and in a healthy environment. We will continue to review our attendance and health information each week to determine when we can end the mask requirement. My next update will be Tuesday, September 7. 

Todd Freeman, Ed.D.
Vestavia Hills City Schools