Please read and/or watch the following message from Dr. Woods to Northside ISD families.
Thank you for your support of NISD schools and students.
While this strain of the virus we are currently dealing with has created issues for schools all across our state and nation, I wanted to talk about how we are continuing student learning as we make our way through the end of year two of the COVID disruption and the surge in cases we are currently seeing.
As of late last week, almost 20% of students were absent and almost 15% of staff were out. We did see substantial improvement in student and staff attendance yesterday, but it is too early to say that is a trend. While that means that 85% or more of staff have been present in our buildings, this has brought some challenges to our normal operations. Thanks to the teachers, librarians, counselors, administrators and other staff covering for teachers so we can continue to provide tier one instruction. We are also supplementing campus staff with certified teachers who work in other roles in the district. In those instances where we cannot cover an individual classroom with a certified teacher, mostly at secondary schools, we are doing our best to keep students safe and continue academic learning
To this end, if you do not already volunteer in your child's schools, we would encourage you to contact the campus and offer your assistance. Please check with the campus before going to the school. Together, we can get through this surge in the virus and return to a more normal school experience.
I also want to take a moment to recognize our campus nurses. That role has been extremely challenging for many months now and that is certainly the case during any surge in the virus.
Individuals who are having symptoms of COVID are asked to stay home and touch base with their Healthcare provider for next steps and/or get tested for. Anyone who tests positive for COVID -19, or are unable to see a healthcare provider or get tested, need to stay home for at least 5 days since the beginning of symptoms. Individuals also need to be fever free for at least 24 hours without medication and other symptoms need to be improved prior to returning to school which could take additional time. People who test positive, but do not have symptoms need to stay home for at least 5 days from the date of the positive test. It is important for individuals returning to school to continue to wear a mask indoors around others until a total of 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms or positive test.
As we have since students returned to our buildings in the fall of 2020, we use enhanced cleaning protocols in all campuses. While some of these require the presence of a trained custodian, there is also hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes available in every classroom. Custodians are working overtime to ensure that schools are clean and we are also prepared to keep schools clean with non-custodial personnel should that become necessary.
We have added staff to cover remote conferencing which continues to be available to those students who have tested positive or are quarantined. This helps to not only keep up with academic work, but to get credit for attendance. If your child does need to quarantine or isolate, please contact the school to get information on remote conferencing.
In addition, we continue to offer community COVID testing at three sites adjacent to both Gus and Farris stadiums. We have also stood up a staff testing site at the Northside Activity Center. Since vaccinations became available, we have offered hundreds of clinics - some for the community at large and some just open for our students, staff and family members. These clinics continue weekly. If you are not vaccinated, we strongly encourage you to investigate the vaccines.
Given the transmissibility of this strain of the virus and the student and staff absenteeism associated with it, we will be returning to a temporary, indoor mask mandate. The members of our Board and I do not make this decision lightly, but feel that we must use this tool given the current disruption to in-person learning. The mandate is driven by concerns for student and staff safety and is not motivated by the current legal battles on this issue. Masks have been used in health care settings for decades and have been shown to reduce viral transmission. Face coverings will be required for all staff, students and visitors in all indoor settings. Masks are not required outdoors. The face covering mandate will go into effect Thursday, January 20 and will only last as long as is necessary to get our community through this current surge in the virus' impact on our schools.
Our prime objective continues to be maintaining student and staff safety while keeping the integrity of in-building learning and continuing the extracurricular activities that so many of our students love.
Lastly, in addition to dealing with the virus, we are also aware that there is some winter weather potentially in the forecast for tomorrow. We are watching this carefully and will make an announcement with regard to school on Thursday either late today or very early Thursday morning.
Again, thank you for your support of NISD schools, staff and students. We hope you and yours stay well.
Brian T. Woods, Ed.D.