Dear Ridgway School Community,
Last Friday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced significant changes to their school guidance, which aligns with the routine disease control model updates announced by the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment (CDPHE) the week before. RSD has worked closely with Ouray County Public Health (OCPH) to understand these recent changes as well as the significant decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations locally and across the state.
Under the new guidance, CDC “no longer recommends universal indoor mask wearing in K-12 schools and early education settings in areas with a low or medium COVID-19 Community Level.” They are also “no longer requiring people to wear masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems.” [See Updated CDC Guidance Chart Below]
Ouray County is currently documented as LOW. San Miguel and Montrose counties are currently documented at Medium. In the short term, as a district, we will monitor this county trend for ten days (Feb 25-March 6) to assure stability of the downward trend in order to maintain our school district’s focus on learning rather than a disruptive, reactionary response to COVID-19 surges. In the long term, if community levels were to rise to the “High” orange level, we would reinstitute the mitigation methods outlined in the CDC guidance. Our current plan is that RSD will institute an Optional Mask model in both buildings and on all school transportation starting Monday, March 7th.
The updated routine disease control model moves schools away from the case-investigation response model to a standard communicable disease monitoring model. While RSD will continue to track and monitor individual COVID-19 cases in both schools (and post active COVID-19 cases of students and school staff on our Nurse District page), the strategic focus will now be a response, in partnership with OCPH, to any clusters or outbreaks of cases. Isolation requirements for ill and COVID-positive staff and students will remain in place.
In addition our district will:
• Continue to stress handwashing;
• Continue to use MERV 13 HVAC filters and have recently purchased new HEPA air filter units for all classrooms for increased ventilation improvements;
• Continue to closely monitor illness among staff and students and require that all persons stay home when sick with COVID-19 symptoms;
• Continue to encourage testing with OCPH or use of home rapid test (schools & local library can help provide rapid tests) in the event of exposure or symptoms;
• Continue to offer serial testing option at our RSS school site;
• Continue to report identified cases to public health;
• Continue to require quarantining for family-related exposures; and
• Communicate with families about cluster and outbreak situations.
During the heightened surge of omicron, the Ridgway School District’s universal mask wearing policy made it possible for us to keep all our students, regardless of vaccination status, safely learning in-person. We have not needed to quarantine larger groups of students even once this year. Unlike many schools where teachers have been navigating how to simultaneously teach online and in person, our teachers have been focused on quality teaching in person with all their students together. Likewise, our students have been learning continuously in-person for a year and half which has been the exception across the region, the state and the nation. We are proud of our teamwork between families, students, staff and community and we will continue this model forward.
Thank you for your continued support and cooperation as we navigate safely forward as a school district and a community. Please reach out to me if you have any questions on these next steps.
Susan Lacy, Superintendent
Ridgway School District