Weekly Family Update

Weekly Family Update
Posted on 01/15/2021

1/15/2021 Update
The Day Family expresses their sincere appreciation for your love and support this week. A celebration of JJ Day’s life will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2021 at 11:30 AM at Crossroads Church Mason. Face masks are required, and seating will be socially distanced and limited. You are also invited to attend virtually through a livestream

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper express gratitude to our community about how we come together during times of grief, and invite people to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and join Tuesday's CommUNITY Conversation on the National Day of Racial Healing.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 38 students and 4 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of January 11-15, 2021, we had 11 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 51 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 9 staff quarantines, and 172 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 


 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 
 

My child doesn’t quite seem themself, but I’m not sure if this is just normal considering all that is happening. When do we need to ask for help?

It is always encouraged to reach out for help! Families can reach out to their child's school counselor or the mental wellness coordinator with any questions or concerns related to the social emotional development or mental health of your child. The counselors and mental wellness coordinators can triage your family’s concerns and make the appropriate referrals or recommendations for school-based or clinical care. Additionally, families can reach out to the district resource coordinator for assistance in providing wraparound support for a variety of community and daily living needs. 
 

What is the process for reporting if my child is COVID positive, or needs to quarantine due to exposure in our household or through the community?

This semester, we have hired a new COVID Support Specialist to help lessen this burden on our school staff, and to provide one place for families to share this information with schools. Send an email to COVID@masonohioschools.com and indicate whether your child is positive for COVID and needs to isolate, or needs to quarantine due to close contact exposure in your household or community. The COVID Support Specialist will then follow up with you, and notify school attendance personnel and school nurses of your child’s status and date of return. 
 

For 2nd semester, what are the percentages of students who are learning online vs learning in-person per school?

MECC: In-Person 64% and Online 36%

ME: In-Person 63% and Online 37%

MI: In-Person 66% and Online 34%

MMS: In-Person 71% and Online 29%

MHS: In-Person 78% and Online 22%
 

If I didn’t get a chance to do the CommUNITY Read of “This Book is Antiracist” by Tiffany Jewell, can I still participate in the CommUNITY Conversation on Tuesday?

This graphic novel that is geared towards young adults is a really quick read, so we encourage you to sit down over the long weekend and jump in!  
 

To get ready for the discussion, watch MCS Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Council members Dr. Littisha Bates, Matt Steele, Jessica Orr, MCS DEI Learning Experience Designer Soroya Smith, and MHS students Jay, Laila, Mariah, Myles, and Urja talk about This Book is Anti-Racist, and share their perspectives about what race means to them, the stories that have shaped them, and their vision for justice.  Virtually #COMETogether on The National Day of Racial Healing (January 19th) to talk with neighbors and friends about the book's lessons for understanding identity, racism, how to stand in solidarity, and holding ourselves accountable. MHS students and DEI Council members will help lead the Zoom CommUNITY Conversation - please join us!
 

Register for the CommUNITY Read & Convo:

https://masonohioschools.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUtf--srj8tHt2wyjWv4e2cmrBRDH1w_l3Y

**After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

 

How can we support our commUNITY?
MLK Day of Service: The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is an official day of service and celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. Our schools are closed to honor this American hero, and we should all consider it a “day on, not a day off.” Visit AmeriCorps’ site for ideas about how your family can serve, and consider participating in these local events (many of which are virtual) to honor Dr. King. 

 

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Martin Luther King, Jr. 

1/8/2021 Update Welcome to the second semester of a year that continues to give us opportunities to practice our ability to adjust and adapt. Typically, there are not a lot of changes that happen during Winter Break. This year, however, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced some significant revisions to the quarantine mandates for the controlled in-person classroom setting. 

Our Warren County Health Department partners are now using Ohio’s new guidance, and consequently MCS in-person learners who have been within 6 feet of another COVID positive student no longer need to quarantine - as long as all students and staff have been wearing face masks and the exposure took place in a classroom setting. Please click here for information about our health and safety protocols for in-person learning. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share important information about the change in Ohio’s quarantine guidelines in classrooms, and how to care for our children in the wake of  traumatic events.

Read the Wall Street Journal’s December 24, 2020 coverage of Mason’s Quarantine Dilemma. 

Each month, we share the cumulative totals of COVID+ cases, and the numbers of quarantines. At the end of December, 94.6% of student positive cases were from community exposure, and 5.4% were from in-school or school-sponsored activity exposure. 57.4% of student quarantines were from in-school or school sponsored activity close contacts, and 29.6% were from household or community close contacts. 

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 55 students and 16 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of January 4-8, 2021, we had 17 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 56 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 15 staff quarantines, and 170 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 


Will families still be notified if their child was in class with someone who is positive for COVID-19?

Yes. We will continue to notify families when their child has been in close contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19 so that families can be aware and monitor for symptoms. A low-risk letter will be emailed to all classes, buses and extracurricular activities associated with the positive person.

Contact tracing in school will also continue to occur for all unmasked students and staff members, including instances like lunch and athletics when masks can’t be worn. Any close contacts who were unmasked will receive a phone call notifying them of the need to quarantine, and a follow-up email with specific instructions that includes their quarantine dates.

If I receive the low-risk level letter, can I choose to quarantine my child?

While public health experts have now deemed the classroom setting as not a source of COVID-spread as long as everyone is wearing a mask, we respect families’ decisions and will allow students to voluntarily quarantine if they have been in close contact in a classroom setting. Please reach out to your child’s school counselor (grades 7-12) or teacher (grades PK-6) in this case so that they can work with you on a quarantine connection plan.

I heard that Mason was part of the Rapid Test Pilot that helped bring about the change to the quarantine rules, but I don’t really know much about who conducted it, and why. How did it work?
Researchers from Ohio State and Wright State University, along with Dayton Children's Hospital, conducted this research evaluation so that public health officials could have more scientific evidence about what’s happening in controlled classroom environments. What they found mimicked the anecdotal evidence school districts who have had in-person learning (like Mason) had gathered since August. Spread simply is not happening inside classrooms where all students are wearing masks. Students who were close contacts were tested 4 times over 2 weeks, and students in the comparison group were tested 2 times over 1 week. We had over 600 Mason City Schools students and staff who were tested as part of the pilot, and only 9 tested positive. Those testing positive were from the quarantine group and the comparison group. 

It is important to note that we were conducting this pilot during a time when positive cases were rising significantly in our community. All of the evidence from the pilot and our experience in school reinforces just how critical each of our actions are to reducing the spread of COVID. We all must be extra vigilant in minimizing contact with people outside our household. And, when connecting with people outside of our household, we should wear face masks. 

Why can’t the rule change apply to extracurriculars or to lunch?

In many ways, the study and new guidelines reinforce just how critical it is to wear a mask. During lunch, students take off their masks while eating. So even though we have plexiglass, there are still students who are sitting close enough to be exposed if a lunch mate tests positive. Along that same line, when we participate in activities where we are not wearing masks we are at risk of being exposed and needing to quarantine. 
 

Will the high school still have RLE Wednesdays?

Through January 2021, but after that we will resume the regular schedule since the new rules have lessened the quarantine burden. 
 

I saw that the Governor tweeted that schools need to be in-person or hybrid by March 1 in order for staff to get the vaccine. Will Mason stop offering the online option after March?

We are very excited about our staff having the opportunity to be vaccinated and will offer the vaccine to Mason City Schools staff as soon as it is available. 

As you know, in Mason we have been going to school in-person 5 days a week since August for families who chose that option, so we already meet this requirement and have no plan to change our online option for 2nd semester.  It has certainly not been easy, but we are grateful that we have been able to give families a choice. This “offer” from the Governor is helping the state prioritize distributing the vaccines to critical infrastructure staff who are in-person, and may also be an attempt to help communities whose school districts, for whatever reason, have not been able to offer any in-person learning since March. (About 40% of the state’s districts are in this situation and it is causing many issues for those Ohioans and their children.)

When will Fall grades be reported?

Fall semester grades are expected to go out next Monday, January 11, 2021. Grades are available on Home Access Center in grades 7-12, and elementary families will receive an email with their standardized grade report cards. 

Do we have a 2021-2022 school year calendar? I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find it!
We have not yet board approved a 2021-2022 calendar. However, here are important dates for you to have for future planning.

  • First Days of School: August 12-13, 2021 (Staggered Start), August 16, 2021 (All Students Come to School)
  • Fall Break: November 22-26, 2021
  • Winter Break: December 20-31, 2021
  • Spring Break: March 28-April 2, 2022
  • Last Day of School: May 26, 2022

How should we talk to our children about this week’s events at the Capitol?
While adults continue to process this week’s deeply troubling events, children and teens are also trying to make sense of what they're seeing and hearing. Kids are often more tuned into our emotions than we realize. Check out these tips from Common Sense Media for “age-appropriate questions to find out what kids and teens know about the events, and what questions they have, and to take care of their emotional well-being. You can also use this as a teachable moment to help older kids and teens develop critical-thinking and media literacy skills as they witness this historic moment.”

How can we support our commUNITY?
Be a Match: A Mason City Schools Dad has been diagnosed with Acute Leukemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant by the end of January or early February. The family is of South Asian descent, and sadly South Asians typically only find a match 30% of the time. To improve his chances of finding a match, please consider registering for Bone Marrow/Blood Cell donation, regardless of your race/ethnicity.


12/18/2020 Update
We all did it! As we #COMETogether this year, we saw a first semester filled with new learning and challenges, and we have all had the opportunity to live out our Culture Guide together. Our Comet Kids (online and in-person) have grown their ability to be flexible, adaptable, empathetic and persistent. We are so very proud of them, and grateful for our dedicated staff and devoted families. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021!

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper talk with a couple of MECC Comet Kids about what they have learned, as well as share information about the staggered start for the week of January 4th, updates on the rapid test pilot, and invite families to share input about plans for 2021-2022.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 39 students and 11 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of December 14-18, 2020, we had 13 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 60 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 35 staff quarantines, and 405 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

I understand that in-person learners will have a staggered start when we come back from Winter Break. Is the staggered start schedule going to be used for the entire 2nd semester?

No. The staggered start for in-person learners is only for the week of January 4th - the first week of the 2nd semester. We plan to be back to full in-person, 5 days a week classes beginning the week of January 11th.

 

How should we report a positive case of COVID-19 over Winter Break?
We will continue to keep track of who is in isolation due to testing positive, or who is quarantining due to coming into close contact with COVID-19 throughout Winter Break. If your child has to go into quarantine or tests positive during the holidays, please complete this form. A MCS staffer will connect with you before January 4th. All of our staff has been encouraged to take vacation time over Winter Break, so we may not be as responsive as we typically strive to be in order for our employees to take the necessary time to renew and recharge. 

 

I have a problem. Where do I go to get it resolved?

We take concerns seriously, and are committed to doing everything we can to resolve issues or make something right. Our goal is to respond to all feedback effectively and efficiently. Most questions or concerns are best answered by communicating directly with the educator in charge of the class or program. Check out this resource for resolving problems or complaints.

 

As you work towards the model for next school year, what are some of the safety measures you assume will still be needed for in-person learning - at least for the first semester?

The promising news about vaccine schedules gives us hope. But, in talking with public health experts we do not believe vaccines will be widely available for children before school starts next August. Consequently, we are working to build an agile model that assumes that masks will still be required, and that we continue to maintain physical distance in classroom settings. We also assume that there will be online learning opportunities.

 

How can we support our commUNITY?
Support our Health Care Heroes: Health care workers aren’t getting a break this holiday season. Consider sending them a note of gratitude or picture, and don’t forget to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and minimize gatherings with people outside your household. Watch this video of Warren County leaders which includes local emergency room physicians reminding us to do our part so that they can continue to do theirs. 

 

A very Merry Christmas to all of our Christian friends and families! 

12/11/2020 Update
This week, we adjusted quarantine timelines based on the CDC’s new guidelines for 226 students who had been quarantined before December 6th. The district now defaults to a 10-Day Quarantine, though families can choose a 14-Day Quarantine, or a 7-Day Quarantine with a Negative Test result on Day 5, 6, or 7. View information about 14-Day Quarantines, 10-Day Quarantines, and 7-Day with Negative Test Quarantines. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share how to calculate the length of quarantine after coming into close contact (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) of someone who is positive for COVID-19.
 


 

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 41 students and 9 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of December 7-11, 2020, we had 12 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 50 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 32 staff quarantines, and 434 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.
 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

 

How is Mason’s Rapid-Test Pilot going?

Very well. We test close contacts and comparison group students on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As of December 10th, we have 241 students who have tested as part of the pilot, and only 3 students have tested positive. We believe this is additional scientific evidence that our schools (with all the controlled, safety measures we have in place including mandatory mask-wearing) are safe. It is important to note that we are conducting this pilot during a time when positive cases are rising significantly in our community. We all must be extra vigilant in doing our part to stop COVID-19 from overwhelming hospitals, and leaving more families and businesses missing loved ones and income.

 

Are you still doing premium pay for substitute teachers?

YES! We need subs and have instituted Premium Pay ($125 a day) retroactive from Monday until Winter Break. So, if you’re on our Sub List - please answer the call. And, if you haven’t considered subbing, we’d love for you to join our team! https://www.applitrack.com/greatercincinnati/onlineapp/

 

Some districts are going to Remote Learning after Winter Break. Is Mason considering that?

We have no data that would suggest that keeping students home for a period of time in remote learning would be safer than coming back to school. We are considering a hybrid plan the week of January 4th (similar to what we did at the first of the year) which could allow the 410 students who are transitioning to in-person an opportunity to acclimate to a new learning environment with new classmates, and could help minimize the amount of quarantines stemming from community spread over Winter Break. We will let staff and families know the definitive plan next week. 

 

We know that spread is happening in our community. When in-person students are in school, they are wearing masks, hand sanitizing and social distancing. We are so very proud of our students and staff for all of their hard work in following the safety rules. It is making a difference!

 

A family member in my household is waiting on COVID test results. Should I send my kids to school?

No - please keep your children at home until you receive negative test results for your family member. If they have a positive test, you will need to quarantine all the members of your household from the date of your last exposure to the family member who has tested positive. In families, this is clearly tricky. 

 

Experts suggest “Many families are faced with quarantining as a unit, and the length of the quarantine depends on the specific situation. Say you live with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and you’re able to isolate from them (for example, your partner has the coronavirus, and they're staying in a separate room). In this case, you should quarantine for a minimum of seven days—granted you receive a negative COVID-19 test—beginning when the patient starts home isolation. Another common situation involves maintaining close contact with the infected person (for example, you're caring for your child with COVID-19, or sharing a bed with your infected partner). In situations like this, you need to quarantine for seven to 10 days after the sick person meets the criteria to end home isolation.”

 

Additionally, “you will have to restart your quarantine from the last day you had close contact with anyone in your house who has COVID-19,” adds the CDC. “Any time a new household member gets sick with COVID-19 and you had close contact, you will need to restart your quarantine.”

 

How can we support our commUNITY?
Wear Your Mask! Help schools and businesses stay open. Wear your mask, keep your distance and wash your hands. Avoid get-togethers with people outside of your family.

Happy Hanukkah to all of our Jewish friends and families!

12/4/2020 Update
In addition to preparing for the second semester, your school leaders are busy planning for the 2021-2022 school year. We recognize the need to design an inspired, innovative, inclusive instructional model for 2021-2022, rooted in research and community feedback, that meets learners’ diverse needs and is ready to launch in time to meet our schools’ scheduling needs. This is an opportunity to improve how we educate our students for the long-term, and for our district to be a leader in educational change. Some of our assumptions about next year are:

  • COVID-19 will still be present in 2021-2022 and will affect the 2021-2022 school year.
  • The quality of education (not convenience/flexibility) will be our utmost priority; all options/paths will reflect “Mason Quality.”
  • Our model will be stronger and more equitable with authentic input from our staff, families, students, and community.
  • Our model will need to be agile enough to respond to changing circumstances.

We believe we have the opportunity to create an inspired, innovative, inclusive model that will exist beyond next year, and we need your input! If you are interested in participating in a virtual CommUNITY Conversation with a school leader, sign up here. We will have opportunities for CommUNITY Conversations throughout December and January. 

 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share the importance of a CommUNITY-sourced educational model for Mason City Schools, and how student, staff, and family input will inform next year and beyond.

Each month, we share the cumulative totals of COVID+ cases, and the numbers of quarantines. Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 33 students and 5 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of November 30-December 4, 2020, we had 11 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 36 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 38 staff quarantines, and 294 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.
 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

The CDC changed their quarantine guidelines on Wednesday. How does that impact students who need to quarantine due to close contact exposure?
The CDC has reduced the recommended length of quarantine time from 14 days to 10 days without symptoms, or 7 days with no symptoms and a negative test. Our Warren County public health partners are working with the Ohio Department of Health to change their guidelines and contact tracing procedures in alignment with the new CDC guidelines.

Because Mason City Schools is one of a select number of districts participating in the Ohio COVID Rapid Testing Pilot, students who would need to quarantine due to a close contact exposure at school do still have the option to participate in the pilot - which means that they can come to school if they participate in the pilot and receive 2 negative tests in week 1, and 2 negative tests in week 2. They may not, however, participate in extracurricular activities. 

We are excited to have this option for families that will provide more data for public health officials and lawmakers in Ohio, and potentially the country. The test itself is much more accurate than previous versions and also less invasive. It takes about 15 minutes to have results and students are then able to go back to class. Click here to sign your child up for the Comparison Group. 

Has staffing been impacted by community spread?

Our staff continues to do an excellent job of following our safety guidelines. Some in-person and online learning teachers who have not had any symptoms but needed to quarantine due to close contact with a family member have continued to teach students remotely. (In-Person teachers have had a sub in the classroom, but have taught the class online.) These efforts are just a few of the examples of how staff are doing whatever they can to stay connected with their students. 

 

We are very grateful that our school board anticipated that substitute teachers would be needed more than ever this year, and authorized the ability to institute premium pay periods during times of critical need. We have hired several new substitute teachers as a result, and we encourage you to consider subbing in our schools. Apply today to help keep our schools open. 

 

This week, we had our first instance of being “close” to not having enough bus drivers to run routes on time. We have developed contingency plans for this. If we would have a bus driver shortage we would not cancel school, but instead would call and text families to let them know that their bus would be running late, and that they could choose to take their child to school or could wait for the bus to arrive 30 minutes later than usual. Make sure you have opted into text messaging.

 

If Warren County moves to purple, will you move in-person learners to remote learning?

Back in July, when Governor DeWine first introduced the color-coded advisory system, we believed this was the system that Ohio schools would use as the main decision making tool for in-person learning options. As we continued working closely with the Warren County Health District, Hamilton County Health Department and Governor DeWine and his team into the early fall, we were told not to use this tool as our main decision making tool. On September 4, we shared with families that a change in color code alone would not automatically trigger a change to the in-person learning option. While we continue to analyze and monitor the seven indicators of the advisory alert system as one of our data sources, we also include many local data points in our daily comprehensive data review process. All of these data factor into decisions about moving to and from hybrid or remote learning. 

 

Public health experts and Warren County health department officials have continued to affirm that students and staff are safe in school, and that spread is not happening inside our schools. Unfortunately, we are seeing rising trends of community spread - which impacts staffing and our ability to safely hold school. As we have shared previously, if based on data we need to go to remote learning for in-person learners, we might not make that decision for the whole district, but could consider just a classroom or a school.  

 

Each of us has a significant role to play in keeping our schools open. Please continue to assess your children daily before school and keep them home if they have symptoms, have tested positive, have been quarantined, or are awaiting test results. Please minimize gatherings with people outside your household. And, when you are out in public, remind everyone in your family to wear their face mask, wash their hands, and maintain social distance.

 

Will we still have Snow Days this year?

With so many things being changed by COVID-19, we're excited to say that Snow Days won't be one of them - at least as long as we don't have lots of snow days for several days in a row. If we have a Snow Day, both online and in-person learners will have the day off. In the case of a weather delay, only in-person learners would be delayed. Online learners would stay on their regular schedule. View the delay schedule for in-person learners in the case of inclement weather.
 

How can we support our commUNITY?
Mason Cares: THANK YOU to the Mason CommUNITY who have already donated over $3500 to Joshua’s Place to provide holiday help and groceries for nearly 500 food insecure Comets and their families! If you are able, please consider donating to Joshua’s Place and use the “Mason Cares” fund to help our neighbors facing economic hardship.

11/20/2020 Update
At this time of year, we are especially thankful that you are part of the Mason City Schools Family. On behalf of the people who teach your children, feed your children, clean your schools, drive your busses, and help support the people working in your schools, we wish to say “Thank you.” We are grateful for your support, trust, and care - and especially for the gift of being with your children, in-person and online.

Click for video

Watch this video of some of our online and in-person staff and students sharing what they are thankful for during this season of gratitude.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 13 students and 5 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of November 16-20, 2020, we had 8 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 22 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 42 staff quarantines, and 331 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

How did the first week of the rapid-testing pilot program go?
We learned a lot! We are excited to have this option for families that will provide more data for public health officials and lawmakers in Ohio, and potentially the country. The test itself is much more accurate than previous versions and also less invasive. It takes about 15 minutes to have results. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper take the test.
(Spoiler alert - his results were negative!)


We tested 30 MHS students who were close contacts who would have had to quarantine (many of whom were on their second or even third quarantine), and 7 MHS students for the comparison group. All of our students had negative tests. 

After Fall Break, MECC, ME, MI and MMS will be able to participate in the Rapid-Testing Pilot once they have enough families who have volunteered to be a part of the comparison group. (Comparison group students must take two tests over two weeks.) 

Volunteer to sign up for the Comparison Group. 

I saw Mr. Cooper’s message last week about the concerning uptick in students expressing suicidal ideation. What should I be looking for to keep my child safe?
Students in Mason and around the country are suffering from mental health issues that have been exacerbated by stressors related to the pandemic. We are seeing increased numbers of students experiencing anxiety and depression related to social isolation. Read more in this Cincinnati Enquirer article. 

Suicide tends to be more likely among those who are dealing with a mental health issue, individuals with a trauma history, or those with a family history of suicide. If you notice your child expressing thoughts about wanting to die, feeling like they have no reason to live, talking about feeling trapped, or searching for information about suicide methods online, seek professional help immediately. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has a psychiatric intake response center staffed 24/7. If you have questions, call 513-636-4124.

My child is an online learner and is in need of mental wellness support. Who should I contact?
All of our students have access to the same mental wellness supports, no matter how they are learning this year. If you have a concern for your student’s mental health, please contact your student’s grade level counselor to set up a virtual or in-person session. If your student is in need of a higher level of clinical care, the school counselor will put in a referral to Cincinnati Children's Hospital and a clinical therapist will reach out and schedule an intake as quickly as possible. Additionally, you may always reach out to our Mental Wellness Supervisor, Nicole Pfirman, at pfirmann@masonohioschools.com for additional support. 

I’m hearing a lot of neighbors saying they are getting together over Fall Break. Are you prepared for an increase in positive cases after Thanksgiving?
The greatest gift each of us can give our family and community this holiday season is to do our part to stop the spread. That means washing our hands, socially distancing, wearing our masks, and foregoing small gatherings. We did see an uptick in positive cases after Halloween, and will be carefully monitoring our data throughout this holiday season as the weather gets colder and more people want to socialize indoors. We know that students are safe in school, and we hope everyone will do their part to keep our schools open. 

What should I do if my child tests positive for COVID-19 during Fall Break?
During Fall Break, if your child has a positive case of COVID-19, please send an email to covid@masonohioschools.com with the child’s name, student ID, school, date of onset of symptoms, and date of positive test. A member of your school team will connect with you about your child’s learning plan the week of November 30th.

How can we support our commUNITY?
Support Mason Schools Foundation while you shop: If you are doing grocery shopping at Kroger or ordering packages from Amazon, there’s an easy way to make your purchases go even further!  

  • Log into your Kroger account and enroll or update your Community Rewards under your Account Settings. Click here for more information and links to register. The number to use for The Mason Schools Foundation is 81641. 
  • AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know–same products, same prices, same service. Support The Mason Schools Foundation by starting your shopping at smile.amazon.com and selecting the Mason Schools Foundation as your charitable organization.

11/13/2020 Update
Well, we made it through Friday the 13th in 2020… so that’s something to celebrate! 

On Monday, students at MHS, MI and ME who are identified as close contacts of a positive case and volunteer to participate in the state’s rapid testing pilot, or who volunteer for the control group, will begin testing. We are grateful that Governor DeWine and his team recognize how important it is that Ohio’s K-12 schools are open. After 14 weeks of being in school we have seen just how effective face masks are for stopping the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to getting more scientific data that will be useful for schools dealing with the quarantine dilemma, and will give schools and communities who may not yet have opened their doors more information about how to safely come back to school in buildings.

 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper answer questions about the pilot, share important reminders as we consider the rising number of COVID+ cases in our community, and speak about the concerning number of online and in-person student hospitalizations for suicidal ideation over the last three weeks.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 20 students and 2 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of November 9-13, 2020, we had 5 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 23 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 44 staff quarantines, and 321 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

If we travel during Thanksgiving, does my child need to quarantine for 14 days when we return?
We encourage families to follow the state's guidance to self-quarantine for 14 days if they have traveled outside the US, or to any state reporting positivity rates of 15% or higher. View the Ohio Department of Health’s travel advisory information, including which states are currently at positivity rates higher than 15%. 

Are in-person learners going to Remote Learning after Thanksgiving Break?
We continue to evaluate multiple data points daily, and at this point are not ready to switch in-person learners to RLE 2.0. Public health experts and Warren County health department officials have continued to affirm that students and staff are safe in school, and that spread is not happening inside our schools. Unfortunately, we are seeing rising trends of community spread - which impacts staffing and our ability to safely hold school. As we have shared previously, if based on data we need to go to remote learning for in-person learners, we might not make that decision for the whole district, but could consider just a classroom (we actually did that this week at MECC) or a school. 

I’ve heard you’ve increased sub pay to $125. How do I sub?
Some school districts have gone to remote learning due to being unable to fill sub needs.  Months ago, our School Board anticipated this concern and at its October 27th board meeting authorized Superintendent Jonathan Cooper to raise sub pay from $85 to $125 during weeks when we saw schools unable to fill sub requests. Mason City Schools started premium sub pay the week of 11/9/2020 - 11/13/2020.  All current and new substitute teachers will earn $125 a day through at least Thanksgiving.  

The Ohio Department of Education issues one-year and five-year multi-age (PreK-12) substitute teaching licenses under Ohio law to applicants who meet qualifications and have been hired to serve in Ohio schools or districts. Click here to learn how to apply or renew your substitute license.

Apply Today to Help Keep Our Schools Open! 
 

I’m concerned about the large number of online learners’ families (particularly at MECC, ME, MI and MMS) who are planning to switch to in-person. Will that make the in-person learners’ class sizes unsafe? 

Our teams are working hard to do scheduling for second semester with a couple of important constraints:

  • We will maintain our commitment to ensure physical distance in classrooms of at least 3 feet. If that cannot be maintained for a grade level or particular subject, we will add an additional teacher which could mean a long-term sub, or an online teacher
  • Recognizing the value of the student-teacher relationship, we will attempt to keep in-person and online class students with their current teachers to the greatest extent possible. This lessens the disruption and relationship-repair needed if we were to make staffing changes that impacted lots of students and families who did not choose to change options.

This year, our one objective for 2020-2021 is “Each learner feels emotionally and physically safe, supported, and empowered to pursue worthy challenges.” Each learner - online or in-person - is important and deserves a high-quality experience. Whether we’re learning virtually or in-person, we’re all in this together!

How can we support our commUNITY?
Comet Cares: Last year, our Comet CommUNITY rallied to ensure that 275 Mason City Schools students were able to celebrate the holidays. This year, our need is even greater. Please consider donating to Joshua’s Place and use the “Mason Cares” fund to provide holiday help and groceries for our food insecure families.


We wish all our families and friends who celebrate the Indian Festival of Lights, “Happy Diwali!”


11/6/2020 update
Today we received official confirmation that the Mason Early Childhood Center, Mason Elementary, Mason Intermediate, Mason Middle School and Mason High School will be part of a 10-district rapid coronavirus test pilot program that is being sponsored by Governor DeWine’s Office, the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the Ohio Department of Health, and the Ohio Department of Insurance.

Since COVID-19 was first discovered in late 2019, we have learned a lot about the virus. And we keep learning more about it. When someone has COVID-19, they are asked to stay home to protect others. This process is called isolation. In addition, people that have been close to the person with COVID-19 are also asked to stay home. These people are called close contacts and the process of staying home is called quarantine. A close contact for COVID-19 is usually based on being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes. Even if the person with COVID-19 and the close contact are both wearing masks correctly, anyone who is within 6 feet for 15 minutes is still considered a close contact.

When the people involved are students, the close contact children are asked to stay home from school. Children who are quarantining can miss a lot of school.

The goal of the evaluation is to see if close contact children need to stay home and miss school even if both the close contacts and the child with COVID-19 were wearing masks correctly. 

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Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper’s video message about the pilot, lessons we have learned about our online and in-person learning models, and short-term and long-term considerations for our district’s instructional model.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 4 students and 4 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of November 2-6, 2020, we had 6 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 7 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 21 staff quarantines, and 158 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

How will this pilot test program work?
School will continue as usual during the pilot. Families who choose to participate will give consent. If a child has COVID-19 during the evaluation, the child will have to stay home for at least 10 days. 

The school and the Warren County health department will find the children who are close contacts of the child with COVID-19. Children who are close contacts may stay in school if both the child with COVID-19 and close contact child were wearing a mask properly and consistently. But to be sure that the close contact children do not have COVID-19, a parent or guardian must agree to letting the child get a test for COVID-19 twice a week.

Some children in the school who are not close contacts will also be asked to have tests for COVID-19 as part of the control group.

High school students in the evaluation will be asked to answer a short survey about their activities. Parents of children who are close contacts or are selected to be a part of the testing program will be asked to give consent for their child’s participation. They will also be asked to do a short survey about their children’s activities. 

How does the COVID-19 test work?
The test being used is called the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card”. It is made by Abbott Laboratories. Our research partners have shared that it has a 95-97% reliability. The test detects tiny pieces of the coronavirus called proteins. The test can be performed quickly with results in about 20 minutes. The test is performed using a swab that is put in the nose. The swab looks like a typical cotton swab (Q-tip). It is put up a nostril no more than one inch, rotated 5 times, and then repeated in the other nostril. The swab is then put on the test card. The person collecting the swab will be a trained health professional.

When will families who requested a switch from online to in-person, or in-person to online be notified of their schedules or teachers?
We are grateful to be able to honor all of our families’ requests that came in before the deadline. There were 427 students whose families chose to switch from online to in-person next semester (91 at MECC, 55 at ME, 79 at MI, 105 at MMS and 97 at MHS) and 101 students whose families chose to switch from in-person to online (3 at MECC, 4 at ME, 10 at MI, 16 at MMS, and 68 at MHS).

Our principals and learning teams are committed to coming up with learning plans for all students that maximize a high-quality experience for students who are switching, while minimizing disruptions for students who are remaining in their current learning option. MECC, ME and MI will communicate new teacher assignments on December 12, and students at all schools will receive schedules and opportunities for orientation before January 4, 2021.

I’m anxious about the election, and I’m not sure how to help my child process what’s happening.

We are all living through history, and it sometimes feels like our nation has never been so divided. This NPR article from the LifeKit desk advises “Be honest and tell them, ‘Dad/Mom is a little nervous about the election.’ It's helpful for kids' social and emotional development to hear you naming your emotions. At the same time, it's not great for you or them to be mainlining the news 24/7, so try your hardest to turn off the TV or the radio, put away your phone and connect — especially over meals and other key moments during the day.” 
 

Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop, notes “that at all costs, we should resist the temptation to label the other side ‘bad guy’ or ‘evil.’ It's not helpful, and it may increase fear and confusion. Instead, talk about people being in pain, being angry, or making choices we disagree with. Empathy, perspective-taking — it's hard to do, but it's also absolutely necessary in a democracy.”
 

How can we support our commUNITY?
Thank a VeteranThe City of Mason is recognizing our nation’s veterans and active military with activities and events in honor of Veterans Day and Mason becoming a Purple Heart City. Join your neighbors in honoring our nation’s heroes by participating in one of the many initiatives taking place throughout the City.


10/30/2020 Update
We hope you are able to enjoy the sunshine this weekend. If your family is planning to participate in trick-or-treating, consider this guidance from the CDC. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper’s video message about how we must stay vigilant in keeping our community healthy, and share how our 3 Big Rocks provide the foundation for us to live and learn together during uncertain and potentially divisive times.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 9 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 26-30, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 12 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 18 staff quarantines, and 92 student quarantines. Since we have finished the month, we have also included cumulative data for the year. Click here to view the data. Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.
 


 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

Why do 7-12 online learners have teachers for their core classes (English, Math, Science and Social Studies) but not electives? Can this be changed?

Due to the wide variety of elective courses offered to our 7-12 students and our model of using an online content provider, we were not able to provide direct teacher support for online elective courses. Our 7-12 online learners do have regular meetings with their learning coach, who helps to monitor students’ progress in electives and connect them to resources, as needed. Due to staffing constraints, this will remain our 7-12 online model for this school year. That said, we also recognize that we might be living with COVID for some time. Our teams will begin work soon to design an improved online model for next year, and will seek family and student feedback as an integral part of our design process through the CommUNITY Conversation model.

Have we had any cases of student positive cases related to in-school exposure?

This month we had our first positive cases that could be traced back to classroom exposure. A specialized classroom at MHS where students are not always able to tolerate mask-wearing was closed for two weeks after two students tested positive. (The original case traced back to community exposure.) Four students and seven staff connected to this class resulted in positive cases. All the impacted students and staff have now returned to school and are doing well. 

There are very few Mason City Schools specialized classrooms with students whose disabilities preclude wearing a mask all day. We have worked with our local public health officials and put additional safety protocols into place. Measures include additional plexiglass in these areas, staff provided with N95 masks, more intentional physical distancing, and additional disinfecting.

What is this about RLE Wednesdays at the high school? Are all students off? Is this the same kind of RLE students would do if we had to move to RLE 2.0 due to COVID spread in our schools or community?
RLE (Remote Learning Experience) Wednesdays are a pilot we are trying at Mason High School in November. Only MHS in-person students will stay home on November 4th, November 11th, and November 18th. The RLE Wednesday will allow high school teachers to provide more synchronous opportunities for their students who are quarantining. These days will function very similarly to last spring’s remote learning experience in that most of the day will be asynchronous learning. If we were to have to move to RLE 2.0 at a building or as a district due to COVID spread in our schools and/or community, there would be much more synchronous learning occurring for all students.


I’ve had friends say that they don’t always receive district and school emails. What should they do?

Sometimes email notifications sent from carsont@masonohioschools.com, contactmason@masonohioschools.com or a Principal through School Messenger could be mistakenly handled by an email provider or program as Spam, Junk or Clutter, so please check these folders first. If these messages go to Spam, Junk or Clutter folders, you can mark their email address as trusted.  Contact your email provider or click here for more information from the web about trusting/whitelisting email addresses.  In addition, sometimes people will accidentally unsubscribe from our emails. We are always happy to help you re-subscribe.

How can we support our commUNITY?
Mason Kiwanis Day of Service: For over 60 years, the Kiwanis Club of Mason has held its annual Pancake Day on the 2nd Saturday of November. Due to the pandemic, the Club is not able to hold this year’s Pancake Day, but instead is planning a CommUNITY Day of Service on Saturday, November 14, 2020 – in partnership with the Mason High School Key Club and Little Helpers. There are four socially distanced, in-person and virtual service projects to benefit our community. 

10/23/2020 Update
The last two weeks have been challenging for some families as they wrestled with making the best choice for their children’s learning option for second semester, especially as the COVID-19 advisory alert system moved Warren County from orange to red. 

Watch this important video message from Warren County Combined Health District’s Dustin Ratliff and Superintendent Jonathan Cooper about what Ohio’s COVID-19 advisory alert system means (and doesn’t mean) for schools, where COVID spread is occurring in our community, how contact tracing is conducted in our schools, and what we can all to do slow the spread. 

video - click

Over 500 families chose to switch learning options for second semester. At MECC, 92 chose to switch to in-person learning and 3 chose to switch to online learning; at ME 56 chose to switch to in-person learning and 5 chose to switch to online learning; at MI 81 chose to switch to in-person learning and 12 chose to switch to online learning; at MMS 105 chose to switch to in-person learning and 16 chose to switch to online learning; at MHS 98 chose to switch to in-person learning and 69 chose to switch to online learning.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 8 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 19-23, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 9 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 21 staff quarantines, and 95 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

I wasn’t able to make my request to switch options before the deadline. Can I still switch?
We are sorry to hear that some families were unable to make their decision until after the deadline had passed. We asked all of our families to be sure that they made their family choice for the second semester by Monday night at 11:59PM. As we have shared in our previous communications to families, the timeline is in place so that we can plan for staffing, allocation of resources, make appropriate placements for our students, etc. There are so many details that happen behind the scenes to pull off this enormous lift in the middle of the school year. In order for us to carefully tend to every personal family situation and choice, we can only honor the switch requests that came in before the deadline in order to have enough time to execute a second semester plan with fidelity.


What happens if Warren County goes purple? How are you making decisions?
Back in July, when Governor DeWine first introduced the color-coded advisory system, we believed this was the system that Ohio schools would use as the main decision making tool for in-person learning options. As we continued working closely with the Warren County Health District, Hamilton County Health Department and Governor DeWine and his team into the early fall, we were told not to use this tool as our main decision making tool. On September 4, we shared with families that a change in color code alone would not automatically trigger a change to the in-learning option. While we continue to analyze and monitor the seven indicators of the advisory alert system as one of our data sources, we also include many local data points in our daily comprehensive data review process. All of these data factor into decisions about moving to and from hybrid or remote learning. 

Consequently, if Warren County is moved to purple, that will not automatically trigger a move to Remote Learning for in-person learners. Instead, any shifts to our in-person learning option would also be tied to local school data that is part of our MCS operational impact index. Those data points include illness absence rates at each school and as a district, number of student and staff COVID+ cases at each school and as a district, number of student and staff quarantine cases at each school and as a district, and ability to staff with substitute teachers/bus drivers/custodians at each school.  

Will MHS be part of Ohio’s rapid test pilot program?
After 10 weeks of in-person learning, our data and experience has shown that the nearly 1,000 Mason High School students who had to quarantine due to close contact exposure in class (closer than 6 feet for 15+ minutes while wearing a face mask) have not contracted COVID-19. Even when they show no symptoms and test negative, they must stay home for 14 days. This creates a burden on our educators, and significant hardships academically and socially for these students. 

Superintendent Jonathan Cooper has been in weekly conversations with Ohio Department of Health Director Lance Himes and Governor Mike DeWine to consider quarantine criteria that might better apply to the controlled school setting. Gov. DeWine’s team is considering MHS as a test site for a low-risk rapid test and return protocol that could significantly lessen the number of students who would need to quarantine if they volunteer to be tested and test negative. The hope is that this pilot could begin in November. 

View WLWT and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s coverage of this issue. 

I’m hearing about some troubling social media behavior in our tweens and teens, where students are sending very hurtful and inappropriate messages to each other. What can be done?
Our school administrators have seen an uptick in the number of online and in-person students reporting disturbing messages primarily sent on Snapchat after school hours where students may say things like “nobody likes you” or request inappropriate photos. One popular add-on to Snapchat that many students use is YOLO, which allows students to interact anonymously with each other on Snapchat. We strongly discourage the use of apps and add-ons that allow for anonymous exchanges; the temptation to say inappropriate things is strong when you believe no one will know you are the messenger. Learn more from Cincinnati Children’s about how online safety requires a mix of monitoring and teaching. 

What are these shoebox floats?
Mason High School’s Student Government invites families, local businesses, and community & school organizations to enter their own “ShoeBox” float as a part of this year’s Homecoming festivities. This year’s theme is Mason MASKarade - and we can’t wait to see the parade of shoebox floats as we celebrate Homecoming as a community. Send a picture of your shoebox float to  shoeboxfloats@gmail.com and/or drop off your family or organization’s float in the Mason High School main entrance vestibule between 7am - 1pm on Sunday!

How can we support our commUNITY?
Mason & Deerfield Community Unity DaysCelebrate our community on Saturday, October 24th! Start the day off at Deerfield Towne Center for the Treat Street Drive-Thru. The community will then be encouraged to stay for lunch or a snack at the many delicious dining options at the center before heading to downtown Mason for the CommUNITY Car Parade. 

10/16/2020 Update
Yesterday, Governor Mike DeWine announced that Warren County’s COVID-19 spread has been upgraded to a level 3 (Red) under the public health advisory. The Governor and Warren County Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury have both noted that the increase in community spread has not come from schools, but instead the source has been family gatherings, weddings, funerals, get togethers with friends, sports teams hanging out after practice, and workplaces becoming more lax in following precautions. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share how MCS continues to monitor multiple data points, and that there will not be a shift to hybrid or RLE at this time.

Mason City Schools’ in-person learners will continue to come to school in-person, five days a week as we continue to monitor multiple data points. The county color alert system is only one data point that we use to inform our decision making. Unless our local health department tells us otherwise, or we see a significant shift in our data, we will stay the course. If there are any immediate changes to our current protocols, we will communicate them right away.

 



Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 6 students and 3 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 12-16, 2020, we had 13 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 14 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 25 staff quarantines, and 164 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

What data points are you considering as you determine if a change in the in-person learning option is needed?
Mason City Schools leaders, in consultation with local and state public health officials, are considering multiple data points, and one data point is not necessarily sufficient to make a switch to hybrid or Remote Learning. Factors we examine daily and weekly include student and staff positive case rates, staff and student quarantine rates, student and staff absentee rates, sub availability, community spread rates, and access to PPE and cleaning supplies.

I thought we were going to go to hybrid as soon as we went to red? What changed?
Governor DeWine unveiled the color-coded state Ohio Public Health COVID advisory system on July 2nd. This tool was designed to help communities be aware of trends in the 7 indicators. In the absence of other tools and data, many Ohio school districts initially considered tying in-person learning options to the various color codes. Governor DeWine, and state and local public health officials have since advised school districts to use multiple data points - including school positive cases.  Today we have more experience and 10 weeks of data to inform our decisions.


“We have 13 new red counties today. Our local health department officials have told us this week that our schools are doing a good job. But what they are seeing is spread from social gatherings,” tweeted Governor DeWine yesterday. 


Do I need to fill out the Learning Option change form if I don’t plan to change?
No. Only families who are requesting a change need to fill out the Learning Option Change Request form. 

Remember, due to the complexity of making changes mid-year, all requests to change options for second semester must be submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, October 19. Click here to request a learning option change. We will not be able to honor any requests to change options that are submitted after the deadline. Change requests that meet the deadline will begin on the first day of second semester, Monday, January 4, 2021.  

Will MMS and MHS online students have more opportunities to come to school to take certain classes, or get synchronous electives during second semester?
No. We cannot accommodate students coming into the building and maintain safety guidelines especially with the amount of contact tracing that is occuring at the high school. All MMS and MHS electives will be asynchronous. 

For a complete description of the online learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

Any word on how the 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option (like a voluntary quarantine) for MHS in-person students is going?
Since offering the temporary remote learning option, we have nearly 200 athletes and musicians who are doing this in order to avoid a quarantine that is required if seated within 6 feet of a positive case while in class. These Marching Band students and athletes want to be in school, but do not want to miss important culminating postseason events. Adding these voluntary remote learners to our nearly 200 MHS students who are in quarantine is becoming a steep logistical burden for our high school educators. We remain committed to coming up with a solution. Our teachers and the high school administrative team are working together to come up with a solution for the second quarter of first semester that will better serve students and their educators. 

What can we do to help keep in-person learners in school?
This is a great time for everyone to follow our safety protocols with fidelity at all-school sponsored events and other social settings throughout the community.

- Mask Up - Nose and Chin covered 
- Wash Hands (20 seconds) often and Use Hand Sanitizer
- Disinfect High Touch Areas 
- Maintain Physical Distance

What should I do if my child needs emotional support or mental wellness support, but doesn’t know where to go for help?
Historically, 1 in 5 students suffer from a mental health disorder. Since the pandemic started, national experts say that has increased to 1 in 2 students. In Mason, we have seen an uptick in the numbers of students and families seeking mental health care. If your child needs help, you or they should reach out to your school counselor or building mental wellness coordinator, use the SafeSchools tip line to self-refer, or call the Warren County Crisis Unit at (877) 695-6333. 

How can we support our commUNITY?
ShineLikeSableHonor the memory of former Mason student Sable Gibson. On October 21st, families are encouraged to spread positivity and kindness by doing a good deed for a neighbor or stranger. Share your random act of kindness on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with #ShineLikeSable.

10/9/2020 Update
Schools and families have more data, information and experience than any of us had back in July when we were making return to learn plans. Anticipating that, in the summer we shared that families would have the opportunity to change options at the semester break. Due to the multiple impacts of option changes on students and staff, we encourage families to remain in their current learning option for the remainder of the school year.

That said, we recognize that for some families there may be a need to request a different learning option for the second semester. There are considerable complex factors when changing learning options in the middle of the year. As a result, students requesting a change will likely have different course selections and teachers than they had in the first semester, or that they requested in spring 2020. Additionally, if there are significant requests to change from one learning option to another in a particular school or grade level, those changes will also impact families who have not requested to change their learning option.

Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing why it is so complex to switch learning options, and some of the potential implications of those changes. 

Request Learning Option Change 
Due to the complexity of making changes mid-year, all requests to change options for second semester must be submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, October 19. Click here to request a learning option change. We will not be able to honor any requests to change options that are submitted after the deadline. Change requests that meet the deadline will begin on the first day of second semester, Monday, January 4, 2021.  

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 14 students and 6 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 5-9, 2020, we had 7 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 14 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 29 staff quarantines, and 160 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.
Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 


Why do we have to make the decision to switch so early?
We recognize that October 19th feels early. When a student requests a switch, multiple systems must adapt in response, including staffing, scheduling, transportation, and food service. This is typically work that happens throughout the spring and summer in preparation for the new school year, and our teams take every day possible to prepare for a smooth transition. An October 19 deadline provides significantly less time to prepare for second semester than teams would typically have, while they also tend to all of their duties to support students while school is in session.

In addition, having just some students make mid-year switches creates a new layer of complexity that is new to all of us, and that our scheduling systems are not designed to handle. If we have a significant number of students request a switch, it will be the equivalent of having a large influx of students transfer from a different school district. Depending on the number of requests, this will require considerable time to execute with accuracy. 

What if I don’t switch, but many other people do?
Unfortunately, other people’s decisions could impact students who remain in their current learning option. For example, if a significant number of elementary students switch from online to in-person learning, remaining online students may end up with a different teacher if their current online teacher needs to be switched to in-person to serve an influx of in-person learners. And, if a significant number of secondary students switch from in-person to online learners, in-person teachers may need to go online in order to support those learners which could change students’ current schedules.

For these reasons, we encourage families to give any request to switch serious consideration and to request the switch only if there has been a significant change in circumstance that requires a change. 

What are some of the implications of requesting a change to in-person learning for my child?

  • they will not be able to switch back to online learning
  • they may experience quarantine (missing school for at least 14 days due to exposure to someone who is COVID+)
  • they will likely have a different teacher(s), including intervention and support staff
  • they could repeat a specials selection (K-6)
  • course availability will be limited and it is likely that course preferences will not be able to be honored, including AP and honors courses (7-12)
  • even if a student is dissatisfied with their schedule or teacher, requests to change options will not be able to be honored after October 19, 2020
  • they could learn in a hybrid or remote learning environment if school/community data requires a shift  

For a complete description of the in-person learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

What are some of the implications of requesting a change to online learning for my child?

  • they will not be able to switch back to in-person learning
  • they will likely have a different teacher(s), including intervention and support staff
  • they could repeat a specials selection (K-6)
  • course availability will be limited and it is likely that course preferences will not be able to be honored, including AP and honors courses (7-12)
  • even if a student is dissatisfied with their schedule or teacher, requests to change options will not be able to be honored after October 19, 2020

For a complete description of the online learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

What if there is a change in the quarantine rules that comes after the deadline?
We are very encouraged by Governor DeWine’s announcement this week that he has asked his team to partner with the health/scientific community to study the current guidance on student quarantine. We are hopeful Mason High School will be one of 10 Ohio schools who will run frequent strip COVID-19 tests of those individuals who would normally be quarantined. Our understanding is that if students needed to quarantine due to close contact (closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) they would have the option to participate in the strip testing rather than automatically quarantining for 14 days. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to examining the issue, and getting more data and evidence. Still, we also recognize that any long-term change to the rules will not happen soon, and likely not before the October 19th deadline. Families will need to make a decision based on what we know now.


What if we get a vaccine? Could we end up all in-person then?
Even if there is a vaccine available before the end of the school year, students whose families chose online learning will remain in that option.

Will there still be a 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option (like a voluntary quarantine) for MHS in-person students who have qualified for post-season competitions or performances?
If the quarantine rules would change, we may no longer need to offer the 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option for in-person MHS students who have qualified for post-season competitions or performances. We will evaluate the current pilot’s effectiveness and impact and use that data to inform future decisions. 

I just got my absentee ballot. What are Issues 13-21?
There are 9 issues related to levies that were previously approved by Mason City Schools’ voters on the November 2020 ballot. Each issue proposes to reduce district revenue by 0.01 mills. These issues were not placed on the ballot by the Mason City School District’s Board of Education.  Voting Yes for the issue reduces the district’s local revenue. Voting No against the issue maintains the district’s local revenue.

How can we support our commUNITY?
HOMECOMING 2020:  MHS STUGO, MHS and Mason City Schools cordially invite families, local businesses, and community & school organizations to enter a “ShoeBox” float as a part of this year’s Homecoming festivities. This year’s theme is Mason MASKarade - and we can’t wait to see the parade of shoebox floats. Homecoming Week is October 26-30th.  We’d love to see your family’s float and show our commUNITY spirit during HOCO 2020! Send pictures of your family’s float to HOCO2020@masonohioschools.com. 


10/2/2020 Update

The City of Mason was recently named one of the 50 best places to live in the US by
Money Magazine. Congratulations to local businesses, City partners, schools and neighbors who contribute so much to Mason Quality. Our CommUNITY is always #1 to us!


Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing answers to some of your questions about Governor DeWine’s interest in our data and implications for quarantine, steps we’re taking to try to keep the 532 students who have been on quarantine from having to do that for a second time, patterns we have noticed with positive cases, how online families will take state tests, and supports for online and in-person learners who may be struggling with our “new normal.”
 

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 3 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of September 14-October 2, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 4 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 10 staff quarantine, and 113 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Many of you have expressed an interest in viewing Mason City Schools cumulative COVID-19 data. With two months of school under our belts, we thought it might be helpful to begin sharing this at the end of each month. 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

What is the district doing to try to keep MHS students from being quarantined for a second time due to close contact exposure?
The high school has come up with a number of short-term solutions, as we continue to ask elected officials to consider the science and data from two months of being back to school, and the implications that none of our close contact, in-school quarantines have turned into positive cases. For students who have already been on quarantine, teachers are working to try to give them preferential seating so that they are 6 feet apart when seated. MHS is also creating a Quarantine room that students can elect to go to so that they can still have time to access their teachers, but remain in a separate environment with 6 feet of distance guaranteed. Finally, the high school is temporarily allowing students involved in post season interscholastic competition to voluntarily quarantine for 2 weeks so that they do not have to miss an important game or performance.

Some online families have reported quite a bit of variance in how long it takes their students to complete their work. What’s “normal”?
In-person learners also often learn at different paces. When we look at survey data from our online learners, it’s almost a perfect bell curve of students sharing that their work is too hard, just right and too easy. If your child is routinely finishing very quickly, check out some of the optional activities that they can do, encourage them to read, explore an interest offline, or reach out to your child’s teacher. If they are routinely struggling with completing work and it seems too difficult, please reach out to your child’s teacher.

Do the cleaning products you’re using cause clothing stains?
As part of our enhanced daily cleaning procedures, we use a product called Vital Oxide on surfaces after each lunch, and at the end of the day - though some educators have used it more frequently in their classrooms. Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant cleaner, mold and mildew killer, and odor eliminator. With its ready-to-use formula designed to be gentle to users but tough on germs, Vital Oxide is non-irritating to skin, non-corrosive to most treated articles, NSF-certified (no rinse required) for food-contact surfaces, and listed as a category IV (lowest toxicity category) pesticide with the EPA. We have had a few issues with clothing stains when people sit in a spot where Vital Oxide has pooled.  We have reminded staff to make sure that it is not pooled before students sit down, and to only use the district’s cleaning products.

How can we support our commUNITY?
WLWT Day of Giving: On Thursday, October 8th Mason City Schools will participate in Channel 5’s Day of Giving. You can TEXT TO GIVE from the station’s website and social media on October 8th, or you can choose to make a donation of canned chicken or chili, mac & cheese cups, canned fruit, or dry pasta to the Comet Cupboard at the Mason Intermediate Circle from 4-6PM.

9/25/2020 Update
Yesterday during his press conference, Ohio Governor DeWine shared that he asked his team to look at Mason City Schools data, and consider that controlled K-12 school settings where everyone wears a mask may warrant a different approach to quarantine. The Governor also signalled that there may not be an answer to our quarantine dilemma soon. 


Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing that after being in school for 5 weeks while we haven’t seen an uptick in positive cases of COVID-19, we do have a concerning trend with the number of Mason High School students who have been in quarantine. When students are in quarantine they are at risk of missing weeks of in-person learning which impacts their mental wellness, academic success and extracurricular opportunities.  We could need to move to a hybrid schedule for Mason High School soon if we do not find relief to this issue.