Aug. 6, 2020
Ray-Pec Parent Community,

I am thankful for a number of things, but one thing that especially stands out is how thankful I am for the Ray-Pec Board of Education, and their support and guidance on our reentry planning process. These decision makers are truly the type of leaders you want in a community. They are student focused, and are trying to safely navigate this new landscape that we find ourselves in. The decisions being made are not simple ones, and we appreciate their guidance through this current situation. Thank you!

As you know from my previous emails, one of the driving objectives for our reentry plan is to provide an in-person learning experience for as many students and parents who want it, for as long as we can, while providing a reasonable risk reduction strategy for all. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we look forward with great anticipation to the first day of school. There has been tremendous work in getting Ray-Pec ready for the first day.

Even though the first day is still a few weeks away, one thing is evident about our reentry plan.

The time to help schools open, and remain open, starts now. 

We have a few weeks before the first day of in-person classes. Physical distancing, avoiding crowds or gatherings, wearing face coverings in public places, washing hands frequently, and staying home if you have symptoms of COVID-19 are commitments we need to make if we are going to give ourselves a true chance at making in-person schooling work. We all want it to work. The time is now to make these commitments that will pay off for our students and staff.

Our teachers, staff, nurses, and principals will need your patience and understanding.

Once school opens for in-person instruction, there will be heightened sensitivity to Covid-like symptoms among students. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 mimic the symptoms of other viruses. Please grant grace to our teachers, staff, nurses and principals if you are asked to pick your child up from school due to the exhibition of symptoms. Our building teams will be trying to reduce the COVID-19 risk as much as possible, and will need your cooperation and understanding should you be asked to pick up your child from school. 

Please observe isolation or quarantine directions by the Cass County Health Department.

Part of making in-person schooling work this fall will be keeping your child at home if they are sick or are exhibiting symptoms. We will also need your help in observing isolation or quarantine of your child if you are directed to do so by the Cass County Health Department (CCHD). This is critical to helping reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in our classrooms.

School classroom or school building closures are a possibility, unfortunately.

As much as I dislike to say it, you need to know about the potential for frequent transitions between in-person and distance learning for those students who selected the in-person option. We will default to the guidance of the CCHD to direct us if a positive case of COVID-19 should occur in our schools. The CCHD will guide us as to who needs to be either isolated or quarantined, and for how long, in each positive case. The CCHD will also guide us in the recommendation for classroom, school or district closure. If recommended, we will make the transition to temporary distance learning, as we reported in past emails to you. I want you to be keenly aware of and prepared for this possibility. To our parents who work outside of the home, there is the potential for extended classroom, school or district closures throughout the school year. Please think about personal contingency planning should an extended classroom, school or district closure become necessary.

We will continue to communicate information about positive COVID-19 cases to our parent and staff communities.

I was asked by a couple of parent community members this week about our communication of positive COVID-19 cases among our students or staff. To these community members, it seemed like Ray-Pec was on the news often about such cases when other school districts have not been featured. The community members wondered why that was so, and if cases in Ray-Pec were greater than cases are elsewhere. 

According to the data I am able to see, there does not seem to be a larger share of COVID-19 occurrences in Ray-Pec compared to elsewhere. The difference may be communication strategy. We made the commitment early-on in this situation to share with our parent and staff communities information of each positive COVID-19 case among students and staff within 24 hours of us being notified by the CCHD. I do not know what commitments to their communities other school districts have made. However, for Ray-Pec, we wanted to make sure our parents, students and staff had the full picture of positive cases. It is important to understand that our communication will include positive cases of students and staff as confirmed by the CCHD.

Additionally, as we have had more experience with dealing with the ripple effects of positive cases over the past few weeks, we have made the decision recently to also send out classroom-specific, school-specific, or District-wide emails if the CCHD has requested classroom seating charts, class rosters, team or activity rosters, or bus ridership lists as part of contact tracing related to a positive case involving someone who is not an employee or student. In those instances, the District will notify the impacted group that some individuals may be contacted by the CCHD. The CCHD will have the responsibility for notifying parents, students and staff for the need to quarantine under these circumstances.

This is a complex and ever-changing situation. When it comes to communication, we want to err on the side of providing what some people might think is too much information, rather than not enough. It is a delicate balance, but our approach is one that we feel our community expects and appreciates.

Planning for a school year during a pandemic is not a skill set taught to parents, teachers, staff, board members, nor administrative team. It is a new experience for all of us. We must continue to lean on each other and support one another as we make the very best of a challenging and ever-changing situation.

Thank you for trusting your children with the Ray-Pec School District,

Mike Slagle

I am passionately driven by the belief that Everyone Is Created To Flourish