I don’t know about many of you, but we had high hopes for this upcoming school year. Numbers of COVID cases were down, and it seemed like there was a good chance that our children could have had a relatively stable school year. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening. This past month COVID cases steadily climbed, and this past Friday Oakland County had the highest number of reported new cases in the state (510 new cases). The new Delta variant is more transmissible and spreading quickly.
Now, we need to rethink our plans for this school year. We need to make changes to our plans that will allow our children their greatest chance of remaining in their classrooms safely. Superintendent Throne has said that, “Despite all mitigation efforts, Covid will continue to remain a threat in the school setting.” However, our schools are not taking all mitigation efforts. In fact, many of the mitigation efforts that were in place last school year have been dropped, such as universal masking, social distancing, and routine COVID screening. With so many students returning to the classroom, some mitigation efforts are not possible this school year, such as social distancing.
The Oakland County Health Department strongly recommends a universal masking strategy in K-12 schools; wherein, everyone wears a mask, not just those who choose to. When everyone wears a mask in our children’s classrooms, they are helping to protect everyone in their class AND helping to keep as many of their classmates in school as possible. Under our current school plan, students within three feet of a positive case will have to quarantine at home for a minimum of seven days. However, if we implemented a universal masking strategy, students are less likely to transmit or become infected with Covid. They could remain in their classroom with their teacher learning. Further, if the school is forced to switch to online learning even once, our school year lengthens as those virtual days do not count towards what is required by the state. As a parent, I know that consistency and stability are important to my children’s education, and I want to give them the best chance of being at school and not quarantining (or worse, being sick) at home.
The Oxford School District needs to follow Oakland County Health Department’s actual recommendation, which is to put in place a universal masking policy in our schools.
Jennifer Hart, Oxford