Dear STEM Parents,
Since March of this year we have been working diligently to develop a way to continue to support the academic, personal, and social needs of our students during the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been no roadmap to guide our decisions. Instead, we have relied on expert recommendations and state orders to design and deliver a comprehensive education in this unprecedented time of our state, nation and world. Our educational team has risen to the challenge and I couldn’t be more proud of their resolve, creativity, and commitment.
As we prepared for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, our Restart STEM Guide was based on current guidance and school readiness to operate during a pandemic. All the while, we have been watching the impact on our most important stakeholders: your children. As we come to the end of the first quarter, there are clear signs that some of our STEM students are suffering under the fully virtual model. For this reason, we developed a phased model to return students to in-person instruction during the second quarter, while still offering a virtual option for those who prefer to stay home. The phased in-person model is conservative and strategically designed to slowly bring the students back to in-person instruction while giving much needed face-to-face time (at an appropriate distance and with a mask) for those who desperately need it to succeed.
When we initially started the school year we only had the county alert system to guide our actions. That is why we built our model on that criteria. Now, we have school data from across the state and nation. Overall, the majority of positive cases from schools have been associated with contacts outside of the school and most who have been quarantined due to potential school exposure have not converted to a positive case. Since late August, we have also had more time to establish our on-site protocol for safety measures (plexiglass, traffic flow, furniture arrangement, personal protective equipment, additional custodial services, etc.).
The rising virus cases in Ohio do bring us concern, but also make us extremely committed to returning students to school in a safe manner. To do this, we need your help. Data shows that the community spread is occurring in large gatherings or celebrations where social distancing and masks are not being used. Please use special caution to avoid these situations to help us protect your family and the staff and students of the Dayton Regional STEM School. If your student is ill, or you suspect they are ill, do NOT send them to school. They can easily log on as a virtual learner until they are well. Also, if you believe your child was exposed to the virus, keep them home and move to virtual learning. Any questions related to exposure and quarantine requirements should be directed to our health clinic staff.
Going forward, we will use the following information to help make decisions on whether or not we need to move to a fully virtual model again:
- STEM student COVID diagnoses that are attributed to school exposure
- STEM staff COVID diagnoses that are attributed to school exposure
- Number of quarantine incidents at STEM
- State and local incident numbers and the impact on schools
- State level orders to move schools to a virtual model
- Other factors previously unidentified but that will impact the safety or our school community and ability to educate the students
Recently, some of you have expressed concern about our teachers and staff as we plan for the return of our students to in-person learning. Please know that the STEM staff and their safety are a high priority. We are working diligently to offer PPE and other measures to protect the teachers and other employees from any potential exposure. While it would be ideal to offer everyone the option to teach or work remotely as they do in many higher education institutions and other businesses, there are barriers in K-12 institutions that make this extremely difficult. For every teacher that works remotely, we must bring in someone to provide in-person oversight for their classes. Staffing and financial limitations make this unmanageable. In a time when there are increased costs for schools due to the pandemic, we are absorbing budget cuts in every funding category. In addition, there are shortages of substitute teachers across our area. We will continue to have internal conversations to discuss safety and mitigation strategies to protect our critically important STEM staff.
We've included the frequently asked questions that we collected from your responses earlier this week. In addition, the number of students in each grade level that have selected virtual or in-person instruction can be found here.
We know that this attached information is critically important for families to make informed decisions for Quarter 2. If you have changed your mind regarding your student's learning model, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any updates as soon as possible.
Our team looks forward to speaking with you during the virtual Town Hall meetings next week to answer any additional questions you may have.
In this together,
Dr. Robin Fisher
Superintendent / CAO
The Dayton Regional STEM School