Coronavirus (COVID-19) may have closed school buildings in the Mount Vernon City School District for now, but the highly contagious and aggressive virus can’t keep the district’s 650 teachers and 8,500 students down during this time at home. They are transitioning successfully to digital learning – consuming video content, having classroom discussions and completing assignments for teachers all online.
We are continuing to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our surrounding communities. So far, we have not been notified of any confirmed cases in Mount Vernon City School District. We have several students and staff that have made a personal decision to self-quarantine out of an abundance of care. That does not mean that these people are positive for the virus. They may have had indirect contact with an infected person or simply showing signs of a typical cold or flu and exercising recommended precaution.
As of this moment, Mount Vernon has no confirmed cases. Various district staff have reported indirect contact and consequently have elected to self-quarantine. Indirect contact means that they have been in some proximity to an infected person or associated with someone who may have had contact with a confirmed case. In those instances, guidance from the Department of Health does not recommend that the District take any action. However, as we have worked to reduce possible exposure, we are looking at each situation on a case by case basis and making decisions accordingly. Our primary goal is to ensure that all students and staff remain safe.
The Mount Vernon City School District’s custodians have begun a thorough disinfecting and sanitizing of its school buildings today, Thursday, March 5th. The cleaning – which will kill all flu-like viruses, including Novel Coronavirus – will be done over the next four days and schools are expected to reopen on Monday morning on a normal schedule.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the nation, it is imperative to take drastic measures in order to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and community. This unprecedented and unchartered event has caused leaders and decision makers to rely on effective communication of pertinent information to help guide and inform our decisions. As the Superintendent of Mount Vernon City School District (MVCSD), I have followed breaking news at the federal, state, and county level on a daily basis. This is in an effort to balance our compliance with regulations that govern the operation of public schools. Unfortunately, some laws make it difficult to enforce certain long-standing policies that may be out of sync with the circumstances and conditions of our community. Specifically, HIPAA laws limit the state’s and county’s health departments from sharing pertinent information.
While I have received no notification of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the MVCSD, because of privacy laws, I am no longer confident that I can operate under the premise that this is 100% accurate. Superintendents across our region have been working collaboratively to try and make decisions that are unified and universal. There are unique features of our community because of its dense population that I must take into consideration as I make decisions that are in the best interest of my students and staff. Therefore, I am writing to advise you that effective Monday, March 16, the MVCSD will be closed. I anticipate reopening on Monday, March 30. I reserve the right to alter this plan if circumstances, conditions, and directives should change and that would dictate that I either suspend the closure earlier, or extend it later.
Teachers are expected to report to work Monday, March 16 in order to appropriately plan and prepare for the launch of our e-Learning format to ensure continuity of instruction during this extended period of time. All district buildings and facilities will be closed to the public until further notice. It is imperative that students remain home. It is recommended that they not be permitted to roam without the careful supervision of a parent or guardian. Doing so defeats the purpose of closing schools out of an abundance of care designed specifically to reduce the potential of our students contracting and/or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Students in out-of-district placements that remain open should anticipate that these services will continue to be provided. Private providers are responsible for notifying that select group of students in the event of a closure.
The administration and teaching staff have been diligently planning alternate ways to continue learning with our students through a digital, e-learning platform. Students and parents should go to our district home page at www.mtvernoncsd.org and click on the Schoology Tab. Schoology can be accessed through smart-phones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers. All a student has to do is log-in using their user-name and password or their QR code for our young learners. On signing in Schoology, students will see their class(es) and enter each class as they are scheduled on a regular school day. We have set up a help hotline to assist parents and students to access Schoology. Parents may call (914) 665 -6203 and leave a clear message that includes their name, a call back number, an email address and a brief description of the problem. One of our technology experts will return the call and assist with log-in and access your schoolwork. Additionally, we will be posting tutorial videos on our district homepage to help you with this process.
Teachers will have a baseline lesson that includes a video from one of our video resources and students will have a learning activity based on that video. Videos may include discussions or other assignments for each day. If there are difficulties in using Schoology, a full two-week packet will be given to the students as soon as possible. Students have been instructed to bring home their books home in case we need to implement other methods of instruction.
We understand the challenges and hardships that this decision may pose on our school families. Please trust that this was not an easy decision. However, we are at a critical juncture for the greater good of our school community and that of the people of Mount Vernon.
During this critical time our continued partnership and caring for one another is essential to successfully navigating this challenge. I will continue to keep you informed to the best of my ability. This continues to be a moving target so we must be prepared to adjust accordingly.
Yours for the Sake of All Children,
Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton
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