Comet Family Update

Comet Family Update
Posted on 10/29/2021

12/3/2021 Update

Watch Superintendent's December Video Message

This month, Superintendent Jonathan Cooper reflects on accomplishments from first semester. He also forecasts that during second semester, face masks will likely become optional district-wide with the availability of vaccines for children 5 and older. Finally, he shares that (like schools across the nation) we are seeing an increasing number of behavior issues - with some elementary students seeming grade levels behind socially, and secondary students struggling with more internalized mental health concerns that can lead to suicidal ideation and other risk-taking behaviors.


If you have concerns about your child's behavior at home or at school, please feel encouraged to reach out to your school's Prevention & Wellness Designer

MCS Focus on Belonging
This year, we have placed a special emphasis on ensuring each Comet feels a sense of connection and belonging at school. While always important, we recognized that with a large portion of students returning from online learning and many students having undergone additional stress and trauma related to the pandemic, it is more important than ever to build meaningful relationships in the service of learning.

One way Mason Schools is meeting this challenge is by intentionally creating space in the beginning of our Comets' day to have a connected and caring moment. MECC students begin the day with morning meeting and soft starts, ME students participate in RISE lessons and morning meetings, MI students regularly participate in LIFT lessons, MMS students now begin the day in CREW, and MHS students have Comet Connect time on Wednesdays.  


Watch MMS students talk about what happens during CREW

District Facing Staff Shortages, Supply Chain Issues
  • TRANSPORTATION: This year, we have approximately 10% fewer drivers and substitute drivers than in the past. Some of our bus driver shortage is due to drivers having medical needs taken care of that were delayed during the pandemic, as well as drivers leaving for other job opportunities. Driver shortages could cause us to need to combine some middle school and high school routes (which will cause delays in the times that students are picked up/dropped off). If we have uncovered routes, affected elementary and secondary MCS students and/or private school students could be significantly delayed, and families may be asked to transport their child to school. Families would receive a SchoolMessenger phone call to alert them about their bus being significantly delayed or unavailable in the case of an uncovered route.

    Drive for MCS: A first-year driver can earn $22/hour, plus a $1,000 signing bonus and a chance to earn $250 per month in attendance bonuses. The job also includes 7 paid holidays, with opportunities to earn additional pay for evening routes, field trips and summer routes. Learn more and apply.


  • CHILD NUTRITION: This year, our Child Nutrition department has been working around the clock with vendors on supply chain issues. Popular items like our Bosco sticks, many of our chicken items and even pizza offerings have been unavailable - requiring substitutions. Consequently, rather than printing menus in December and publishing menus that will likely change due to food availability, we encourage you to view the most up-to-date menus on our website. If your child has dietary or religious food needs, please contact seitzj@masonohioschools.com and Jennifer will be glad to add a note to your child's meal account so that any meal offered meets your family's expectations and child's needs.

  • Be a GEM

    The Mason Schools Foundation invites you to become a GEM -Give Every Month Donor.   For just $10, $20, or $30 dollars a month you can make an impact and help us build extraordinary experiences for Mason students.  Invest in knowledge, provide for those in need, and create a competitive advantage for all students in the district.  Your support is invested to fund teacher-generated grants that provide resources to fuel innovation across all five schools and takes all students “Above & Beyond”.  Join our mission, become a GEM donor today at  https://MSFGEMS.givesmart.com


    #COMETScommit

    Each month, MCS staff participate in Comet Circles - a caring, connected community as part of our district's effort to grow an inclusive, positive and engaging culture where everyone belongs. We invite your Family Circle to join the movement with a family challenge!

    In December, we encourage you to consider ways you can share your gifts with others. What will your family do to give encouragement to others? Share your commitments with the hashtag #COMETScommit. We will have a mid-month check-in on Facebook and Twitter!

    COVID Update

    View our COVID-19 Dashboard for current positive cases of COVID-19 and quarantines along with the cumulative numbers since school began.

    Click here for information on the quarantine process for a school exposure.

    Click here for information on the quarantine process for a community exposure.

    Families should use the Safe Arrival attendance system to report a confirmed case of COVID-19 or quarantine.

    Best wishes to our friends & neighbors commemorating and celebrating important holidays this month
    • Hanukkah* (11/28 - 12/6)
    • International Day for People with Disabilities (12/3)
    • Bodhi Day (12/8)
    • Winter Solstice (12/21)
    • Christmas (12/25)
    • Kwanzaa begins (12/26)
    • New Year's Eve (12/31)
      *These holidays begin at sundown on the previous day

10/29/2021 Update
Throughout the pandemic, we have continually shared what we know, when we know it. Today, we are providing important trend data from the Warren County Test-to-Stay pilot and Mason City Schools. Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share the data.

 


 

DATA TRENDS

  • 2021 Warren County Test-to-Stay Pilot: Students who Tested Negative: 96.5% 
    • 457 students from 10 school districts participated 
    • 50% of school districts required masking in PK-6
    • 0% of school districts required masking in 7-12
  • 2020 Ohio COVID Rapid Testing Study: Students who Tested Negative: 97%
    • 727 students from 7 school districts participated
    • 100% of districts required masking in PK-12
  • 2021 MCS COVID-19 Isolations
    • MCS’s highest COVID-19 positive cases was the week of October 4-10, 2021 with 36 student cases and 5 staff cases.  
    • Today, MCS ends the week with 8 student positive cases, and 3 positive staff cases. 
  • 2020 MCS COVID-19 Isolations
    • MCS’s highest COVID-19 positive cases was the week of December 14-18, 2020 with 60 positive student cases and 13 positive staff cases.

The positivity rate of COVID-19 in students participating in the Warren County Test to Stay pilot program suggests a low transmission in schools, and is remarkably similar to the rate of positivity in last year’s study with Ohio State University when all students were required to wear masks at school. We are encouraged by the state’s new quarantine guidance for direct contacts in a school setting. The new guidance is a result of a growing body of national experience, as well as the Warren County pilot our district helped lead. The guidelines help keep healthy kids learning in school, and participating in the activities they love. We recognize that monitoring for symptoms and testing remains a vital component to isolating positive cases and decreasing possible transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

We will continue to closely monitor our local data, and community trends. As we have done over the last 2 years, any changes in COVID protocols will be based on our local data trends, local public health expert guidance, and will be communicated promptly to staff and families. 

10/22/2021 Update
Today, Ohio Governor DeWine announced a new quarantine option - Mask to Stay, Test to Play - that is a result of a growing body of national experience, as well as the Warren County pilot our district helped lead. The guidelines help keep healthy kids learning in school, and participating in the activities they love. They are another step in ensuring that our children stay connected to their educators and classmates - a crucial component for children’s mental wellness. 

The new guidelines are for students who were exposed to COVID-19 in a classroom setting or school-related activity. Those exposed to COVID-19 outside of school should continue to follow standard quarantine guidelines.

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share information about Mask to Stay, Test to Play
 

**MCS will continue to notify families when they have a child who is a direct contact at school. Students who are a direct contact due to a school exposure will be opted into the new Mask to Stay program.  If a family chooses the standard 10-day quarantine at home, they should use Safe Arrival to report their child’s quarantine absence.
 

Mask to Stay
Under Mask to Stay, students can continue with in-person learning after being directly exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting if they do the following:

  • Wear a mask for at least 14 days after the initial exposure date
  • Self-monitor or have a parent monitor for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Isolate and get tested if they show symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of the severity of symptoms

Students discontinue the quarantine procedures after seven days if they don't develop any symptoms and if they test negative for the virus on days 5, 6, or 7 from their exposure.
 

Test to Play
Test to Play permits students to participate in extracurricular activities after being directly exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting if they:

  • Wear a mask when able, such as while on a team bus, in the locker room or while on the sidelines or bench
  • Get tested for COVID-19 once they learn they were exposed to the virus
  • Test again between days five and seven following the initial exposure.

Students discontinue the quarantine procedures after seven days if they test negative for the virus on days 5, 6, or 7 from their exposure.
 

About the Pilot
10 Warren County school districts participated in the 4-week Test & Stay pilot program with the Warren County Combined Health District and with assistance from the Ohio Department of Health. Participating districts included Carlisle Local Schools, Clinton-Massie Local Schools, Franklin City Schools, Kings Local Schools, Lebanon City Schools, Little Miami, Mason City Schools, Monroe City Schools, Springboro, Wayne Local Schools, the Warren County Career Center and the Warren County Educational Service Center. During the pilot:

  • 790 Warren County students were identified as direct contacts at school (77 MCS students)
  • 457 Warren County students participated in the program (57 MCS students)
  • 335 Warren County students completed the 7-day program with negative tests and no symptoms (55 MCS students)
  • 106 Warren County students are still in the program 
  • 12 Warren County students had a positive test result after the first test (2.63% of program participants)
  • 4 Warren County students had a positive test result after the second test (0.88% of program participants) 
  • 3,370 days of in-person learning were saved 

9/3/2021 Update
Watch Superintendent's September Video Message

This month, Superintendent Jonathan Cooper shares Mason City Schools focus on our #CometCulture belief "Build MeaningfulRelationships" - highlighting ways that our youngest learners do this at MECC, and how the middle school's new Comet Crew time devotes time each day to relationship-building as part of efforts to make big schools feel small. Mr. Cooper also explains how the MMS September focus of Persistence is also employed by school leaders as we all learn to live with COVID-19 and  keep healthy kids at school, and sick kids at home. Finally, he shares his own personal #COMETScommit challenge for September.

MCS Communication Cadence

We heard from families last year that you appreciated our regular rhythm of communication, but that sometimes it could be overwhelming to have so many emails in your inbox. This year, each week you will receive your principal's weekly Mason Connects Me email on Friday. On the first Friday of the month, you will receive a district update that includes a video message from Superintendent Jonathan Cooper, updates, and highlights about what's coming in the month ahead. Of course, we will continue to share specific updates that impact our Comet Community through email and social media, and in an emergency will also utilize phone calls and text messaging. If you have ideas on how we can communicate more effectively, please share with Public Information Officer Tracey Carson @ carsont@masonohioschools.com

#COMETScommit

Each month, MCS staff participate in Comet Circles - a caring, connected community as part of our district's effort to grow an inclusive, positive and engaging culture where everyone belongs. We invite your Family Circle to join the movement with a family challenge!

In September, we encourage you to consider ways you can "Invest in your own family." What will your family do to care for each other for the next 30 days? Share your commitments with the hashtag #COMETScommit. We will have a mid-month check-in on Facebook and Twitter!

COVID Update

This year, we have upgraded our COVID-19 dashboard to make it more transparent by sharing real-time data, and noting the current positive cases of COVID-19 and quarantines along with the cumulative numbers since school began. When looking at the dashboard, the pie charts on the left are current numbers of cases, and the bar charts and tables on the right are cumulative.  

Click here for information on the quarantine process for a school exposure.

Click here for information on the quarantine process for a community exposure.

8/3/2021 Update
There is a lot of preparation happening behind the scenes to ensure a safe and successful 2021-2022 school year. From the teachers who are currently prepping their classrooms, to the mechanics in the bus garage who are prepping our buses, our district is a hive of activity!


Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper explain how our Comet Culture impacts how we care for each other, and how masking helps keep kids safe and in school.

We shared communication last week about our safety protocols for the coming year. View a summary of many of the 2021-2022 safety protocols.  Below are common questions from our families and the public. As we have learned throughout the pandemic, we must adjust and adapt as circumstances change, and we will no doubt do so again this year if needed. 
 

How are you making your decisions about returning to school?

After 18 months of in-person education during the pandemic, we have many practices in place that will serve us well again. Our Comets’ efforts to wear masks, social distance when possible, stay home when sick, and practice regular hand-washing are important for keeping our learning community healthy and in school. 

Last year, our school district was able to stay in school all year because we leaned on our local public health partners’ guidance, and relied heavily on collecting and analyzing local data. We are doing the same thing this year. 

Our health department partners have shared that over the last 14 days, there have been 44 individuals under the age of 18 (out of about 60,000) who have reported a positive COVID case in the county. There are 5 individuals (out of about 240,000) who have been hospitalized in the county, all of whom are between the ages of 40 and 70. Over 90% of MCS staff have been vaccinated, and the population making up the Mason City School District has the highest vaccine rate in the county. This summer, during our extended school year program and in school-sponsored activities and athletics, we have not had any positive reported cases of COVID among MCS students or staff. 

We will continue to closely monitor our community’s transmission rates, our student and staff’s positivity rates and the severity of cases, and the number of quarantines which cause students to be absent even when they feel healthy. If data trends determine we need to make changes to any of our practices and guidelines (like mask recommendations) we will adjust. 

How will the quarantine rules work for next year, especially if someone isn’t wearing a mask?

The Warren County Health Department is responsible for quarantining individuals who have come into close contact (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) with an individual who is positive for COVID-19. Mason City Schools assists the Health Department to conduct contact tracing. 

Wearing a mask helps keep your child in school, and your neighbor’s child in school, since unvaccinated students who are not wearing a mask face a much greater risk of quarantine if they are exposed to a positive case of COVID. Students who are not wearing a mask also risk sending other students home to quarantine (even if their classmate is wearing a mask.) 

If all contacts are wearing masks, they will not need to quarantine. In addition, anyone who is fully vaccinated will not be quarantined, even if they are not wearing a mask. The district will email and call students' families who are close contacts and are required to quarantine. Additionally, MCS will send a low-risk exposure letter to all classes, buses and extracurricular activities associated with the positive person. 

Students who have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 have the option of quarantining for 14 days, 10 days or 7 days with proof of a negative test on Day 5, 6, or 7.  Fully vaccinated students who have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 will not need to quarantine if they show proof of vaccination.

My teen has been vaccinated. Do they still need to quarantine if they are exposed to a positive case of COVID-19?

According to the Health Department, anyone who is fully vaccinated will not be quarantined, even if they are not wearing a mask. Fully vaccinated students who have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 will need to show proof of vaccination in order to avoid quarantine.

What does “masks strongly recommended” actually mean?

It is important that we remain vigilant with what we are doing to protect students, and to do everything we can to keep them healthy and in school. The Ohio Department of Health and our local public health partners have strongly recommended masks be worn inside schools. While the guidance acknowledges that children are less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19, it noted they can still get sick, spread the virus to others and suffer health issues. The Mason City School District is leaning on this guidance and also strongly recommends that masks be worn while inside schools. Students must wear masks while on the bus due to a federal mandate.

Things to Note

All Mason City Schools offices will be closed on Tuesday, August 10th from 8:45AM -10:15AM while our staff comes together for an opening day convocation. Your educators are eager to see you during the Wednesday, August 11 family orientation day. Also, check out our Back To School headquarters for calendars, handbooks and more important information. 


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