Lakeshore Public Schools
JULY 2021 - BOARD OF EDUCATION STATEMENT ON RETURN TO LEARNING PLANS
Throughout the course of the 2020-2021 school year, the Lakeshore Board of Education and the LPS Administrative Team have been managing the plans for learning. Lakeshore is proud to have provided in-person instruction at the highest rate in the state. Each month, the Board has approved the district’s learning plan. This work has been fluid given the changing government mandates and conditions of the pandemic.
At this time, we anticipate Superintendent Eding to present a draft Return to Learn Plan to the Board of Education sometime in the next few weeks and to publish a plan by the first of August. A key feature of the draft Return to Learn Plan will be “flexible mitigation,” meaning that as transmission rates increase, additional mitigation measures may be implemented. As transmission rates decline, so too would mitigation strategies.
Transmission rates in the county and within the Lakeshore community are currently low. If they remain low, then we have confidence the upcoming school year will look and feel very much like a normal school year. Below are some specific details of our draft plan that would be implemented if transmission rates remain low.
- Schools will open and operate on a full, daily schedule with in-person instruction.
- Staff, students, volunteers, and visitors will NOT be required to wear face masks, regardless of one’s vaccination status. Face coverings will be optional. While no longer mandated, local and state public health officials recommend that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear a mask in indoor public settings. As a public school district, we must comply with local, state, and federal laws to ensure continued financial support. We also anticipate that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and/or the Berrien County Health Department will issue a face covering order if high levels of community transmission return, with which we would comply as a public school district.
- Students and staff will NOT be tested for COVID, unless mandated by the MHSAA, MDHHS, or BCHD. COVID vaccination is NOT required for school enrollment or attendance. The district encourages staff and students to become vaccinated, yet the district is NOT requiring staff or students to be vaccinated.
- While public health officials expect positive cases of COVID to be far more infrequent, people who do test positive will need to stay home until symptom free and any students or staff who are not vaccinated and are designated a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case will have to quarantine for 10 days.
- Finally, we look forward to students engaging in athletic, enrichment, and extracurricular activities before and after the school day.
These expectations are based upon COVID cases remaining at low levels. Public health officials expect case levels to remain low due to the protective effects of vaccinations and antibodies derived from prior exposure. If transmission rates increase, then increased mitigation measures will be implemented in line with mandates by local, state, or federal agencies and in as inclusive and non-discriminatory manner as possible.
As one of the public school districts in Berrien County, we will continue to partner with our neighbors. There are synergies to our collaboration and, thus, we will continue to align our actions where and when appropriate. That said, we serve the students and parents of Lakeshore Public Schools and any actions we take will be those that most effectively support the safety and well-being of our students while complying with the rules, laws, or emergency orders established by local, state, or federal agencies.
May 12, 2021
Quarantine Guidelines Change
Over the past 15 months, Lakeshore Public Schools has relied on guidance and directives from the CDC, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), and, most important, the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) in making decisions about operating our schools during a pandemic. We utilized their expertise and worked in partnership to develop protocols that allowed our district to open safely in the fall. Adherence to these protocols kept our schools open for more in-person days than the vast majority of districts in the state. We are very proud that we have been able to make that happen with your support.
During that same period, we have also closely monitored data on cases, quarantines, and possible school transmission in our district and in districts across the county. It is clear that our COVID-19 mitigation strategies have been effective, in large part thanks to the commitment of our school community to adhere to the safety protocols in place. To date, less than 1% of the students quarantined using the six foot distance rule have developed symptoms or tested positive for the virus. As with any new information during the pandemic, this information prompted a conversation among our local superintendents and the BCHD.
After reviewing our data with BCHD officials, a decision has been made to reduce quarantining protocols from a six-foot standard to a three-foot standard for determining if a student was in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 while in the classroom. A close contact whenever masks cannot be worn (e.g., while eating, athletic competition, etc.) remains defined as anyone within six feet for a designated period of time.
The BCHD is confident that this change will not present a greater risk of transmission at this time as long as districts continue to be vigilant in implementing all other mitigation strategies including:
- Wearing masks
- Cohorting where possible
- Social distancing staff and students to the extent possible
- Testing and monitoring students in athletics
- Checking symptoms prior to arriving at school
- Isolating and quarantining positive and probable cases
To be clear, the move to using a three-foot radius for determining quarantines does not mean that we are moving away from any of our other protocols. We are committed to ending the year on the same positive note that we started - offering every day and all day in-person learning in the safest environment we can provide.
Berrien County has been the model in the State in supporting the in-person instruction option. This is due in large measure to the cooperation between the area superintendents and the Berrien County Health Department. We also could not have made this work without the continued support of students, families, teachers and staff. Thank you for your commitment to Lakeshore Public Schools and for serving as our partner in your child’s education.
You may have heard recent media reports about the state's plans to release weekly reports about the number of positive COVID-19 cases that involve school staff or students. In our conversation with the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD), we have clarified that these weekly reports will include identified outbreaks within schools. An “outbreak” is defined as two or more contacts identified as having active COVID-19 that are epidemiologically connected to a specific site over a 14 day time period.
In an effort to remain as transparent as possible, the District will report COVID-19 cases associated with attendance in our schools through email and on our website in two ways. First, when a case arises where a student or staff member has been in attendance in school and has ultimately tested positive for COVID-19, a letter will be emailed to all families and staff as soon as is practical after receiving information from the BCHD. Second, the District will update a District COVID-19 Dashboard providing information on the number of positive tests associated with attendance in school and the number of students/staff quarantined as a result of close contacts. That information is found below.
To clarify this reporting, we want to assure you of these four things:
- Due to HIPAA and FERPA laws, we cannot, and will not, disclose the identity of a staff member or student that has tested positive for COVID-19.
- Those who test positive for COVID-19 will not return to school until public health officials provide a letter to the school that states they are clear to return. This could be as soon as 10 days after the positive test results if symptoms are resolved.
- If we do have a staff or student test positive for COVID-19, we will work closely with public health officials. The Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) will investigate and identify close contacts during the infectious period. Only those close contacts will be ordered to quarantine by BCHD.
- We will alert parents and staff of positive cases that are associated with school attendance as we become aware of it via email without disclosing the person's identity.
Lakeshore Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard
* This report includes ALL students/staff associated with Lakeshore Public Schools as identified by the Berrien County Health Department. Cases and quarantines may not be due to "close contacts" at school or related events.
Cumulative District Statistics*
# COVID-19 Cases = 145
# "Close Contacts Quarantined = 1047
* NOTE: This report includes ALL students/staff associated with Lakeshore Public Schools (including Virtual Academy students) as identified by the Berrien County Health Department. Reported cases and quarantines may not be due to "close contacts" at school or related events.
For additional information on Berrien County, please visit the Berrien County Health Department COVID-19 Dashboard.