ORWELL — An increase in COVID-19 cases and the quarantines that must follow, led the Grand Valley Area Local Schools to reinstate a mask policy for staff and students, said Superintendent William Nye.
During a recent school board meeting the district put together a series of metrics to make a decision regarding masks, Nye said.
“We have continually monitored community spread of COVID-19, reported illness/absence trends in our buildings and [COVID-19 cases] in our zip code areas in which we reside,” Nye stated.
He said the metrics have been rising on COVID-19 cases, but an additional concern was the need for additional quarantines, which disrupt school and extra-curricular activities.
“We have noted trends that are now disrupting our main goal to maintain a healthy environment for in-person instruction to be successful,” Nye said. He said there has been 10 to 12 absentee rate with some of those students staying home due to precautionary measures.
Nye said there have been COVID-19 cases, but the biggest issue has been the quarantines that have followed.
Nye said staff absences due to illness and quarantines have increased so significantly that managing and maintaining the in-person delivery model is now in jeopardy if we don’t adjust course,” he said.
Nye said the mandate will reduce quarantines because if students and staff are wearing masks there is not a quarantine requirement if people are 3 feet apart and beyond. If unmasked the quarantine mandate comes into play, he said.
“At this pace, if we do not make some changes we stand to lose far more in-person instruction in the next month and beyond by virtue of or inability to logistically operate our transportation, buildings and classrooms,” he said.
“Therefore, we need to introduce [regardless of vaccination], an additional mitigation measure that requires masks to be worn by all staff and students during the school day in an attempt to reduce the rapidly increasing number of illnesses,” he said.
Nye said the mask mitigation measure will be removed when there is sustained reductions in illness, indicating decreased transmission. He said the requirement begins today. The administration understands there will be acclimation periods, especially for younger students.
He said he knows there is a difference in opinion on the pandemic, but the mandate was needed to maintain a healthy school environment and keep the schools open.
The masks will need to be worn for indoor extra-curricular and sporting events, but not necessary for outdoor sports and other events.
Nye said masks will be available for students or students may wear their own disposable or cloth mask, a shield or a neck gaiter.
If a student has a valid medical or educational reason, a mask exemption may be granted, he said.