COVID and Mask Letter to Parents
Hello UME Families,
COVID presents many variables which creates difficulty for long term planning. Everything in this letter is subject to change based on increases and decreases in COVID cases. If you read my welcome back letter you are aware that masks are not required to begin the year. However, if students/staff are closer than six feet for 15 minutes without a mask and one of them tests positive then everyone within six feet is required to be quarantined. The only way we don't have to quarantine is if all individuals within six feet of each other are masked up.....and/or vaccinated.
Our utmost priority is the safety of students and staff. Our next priority is keeping kids in school. We don’t want to quarantine anyone if we don’t have to. Last year we were forced to quarantine dozens of students early in the year who never tested positive. They needed, and deserved, to be with their peers in school. The rules changed shortly thereafter to allow students within six feet of each other to remain in school if everyone was masked up. Those changes allowed us to keep almost everyone in school the remainder of the year. Those same rules apply heading into this year.
I have been in communication with the teachers of UME. They will do their best to space kids out in their classrooms as close to six feet as possible. However, due to the large number of students and the size of classrooms it is impossible to maintain a six foot physical distance at all times. We will do our very best.
As far as small group rotations and WIN groups are concerned the same rules apply. We can space kids out in PE and Music, but they are closer than six feet in Science and Media. If they are not six feet apart and they aren't masked up, the kids within six feet of an individual who tests positive during that small group, WIN, or Specials would have to be quarantined. We know small groups and WIN are critical to student learning. Grouping students with similar needs for short periods of time is best practice. At UME we do not believe we should forego these strategies and practices.
Nobody is trying to change your opinion regarding the wearing of masks. I am simply informing you on what will happen if your child is not wearing a mask and within six feet (small groups) of someone who tests positive. Your child will have to quarantine. We don’t want that happening. We love our kids and want them in school. We don’t want to see the added burdens that will fall on the shoulders of parents who have to take time off work to watch their quarantined kids.
I'm going to offer a suggestion. Would you be willing to send your child with a mask that stays in their cubby? They would only use it for small groups throughout the day. This would be for approximately an hour of the day (give or take) depending on the grade and teacher. I don’t like wearing a mask any more than many of you. It’s not about whether or not we think they are even effective. It’s simply a matter of being able to educate your children at the highest level possible. Small group instruction is critical to ensuring high levels of learning for all….especially at the elementary level. We want your kids in school all year long.
Your child’s teacher will send home a note/survey asking for your permission to keep a mask at school for your child for small group instruction and some Specials classes (Not PE or Music) . If you do not give your child permission to wear a mask at all, we will honor your request. We will keep that information confidential. Your child will still be able to participate in everything we do at UME. If you give the teacher permission to have your child wear a mask for parts of the day, we will honor that as well. Teachers will not be the enforcers of masks. However, they are always more than willing to accommodate the needs of you children to the furthest extent possible.
This is difficult to explain in a letter. We are in it together. I hope what you gather from this letter is not a debate on mask wearing and vaccinations. It’s not about that. It’s about keeping your child in school all year long. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me, the office or your child’s teacher. UME contact information is listed above. We can’t wait to see everyone soon!
Jerrod Dastrup - Principal