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Aug. 20 CMCSS Mitigation Message

August 20, 2021

Good evening, CMCSS families,

We ended last school year with over 70% of our 36,500 students learning in-person and around 30% riding CMCSS transportation. This year, 97% of our 37,800 students are learning in-person and around 55% are riding CMCSS transportation. Without a doubt, in-person learning is the best educational environment for the vast majority of our students, and we have worked hard to ensure that option has been, and will continue to be, available during the pandemic.

CMCSS has communicated with families since last year that schools cannot eliminate the spread of COVID-19 during in-person learning, but our collective actions can help mitigate the spread. The District’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy has always been about using multiple layers to improve success, sometimes referred to as the Swiss Cheese model. For the 2021-2022 school year, CMCSS has been using the following primary mitigation layers:

  • Using MERV 13 instead of MERV 9 filters in all buildings
  • Increasing outdoor air ventilation
  • Employing enhanced two-step cleaning throughout buildings
  • Encouraging self-screening, masks, handwashing, covering sneezes, and staying home when sick for all students, employees, and visitors
  • Identifying opportunities to promote physical distancing when possible in schools
  • Replenishing hand sanitizing stations
  • Promoting the use of personal water bottles and filling stations while water fountains are shut down
  • Establishing School Health Screening Rooms
  • Providing vaccination opportunities and COVID-19 testing for employees and their families at Onsite Employee Health and Wellness Clinics
  • Updating and implementing the Return to School/Work Flowchart

According to data from the Tennessee Department of Health, the percent of COVID-19 in Montgomery County is the same right now as it was in early December 2020 and late January 2021, peaking around 0.3% higher than it is now in early January 2021. Ultimately, the increase in our community’s spread from 0.1% on July 20, 2021, to 0.5% on August 8, 2021, occurred before school was in session. The entire community is accountable for public health, not just public schools. We all have to work together to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases.

In this first full week of school, as of today, CMCSS has 298 student positive cases and 1,488 other students who are absent due to exclusions/quarantines. There are 41 positive employee cases and 76 are out on COVID-related leave. Compared to similar community spread in the winter, the number of employee positive cases is almost half. However, the number of student positive cases has more than tripled.

To add more layers to CMCSS’ mitigation strategy, effective Monday, August 23, the following protocols will take effect until Montgomery County goes back down to moderate/low transmission levels:

  • Modifying custodial procedures to further increase the focus on two-step cleaning throughout the day and decrease focus on other areas (window cleaning, floor buffing, etc.)
  • Operating mechanical systems (HVAC) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as possible for each building’s situation to further increase filtration
  • Limiting nonessential visitors from the school environment at the discretion of building administrators, to include temporarily not allowing lunchtime visitors
  • Limiting indoor mass gatherings during the school day at the discretion of building administrators
  • Providing masks in school buildings and on transportation for those who request one
  • Increasing hand sanitizing stations in schools and on transportation

Finally, to reiterate, we all have choices. Our choices can help or hinder our progress towards slowing the virus. Our choices can affect those who are more vulnerable to this virus. As the data shows, the community cannot rely on these choices just to be reinforced in schools, and multiple positive choices make a bigger impact than just one. Please make the following personal choices and reinforce with your children, family, and friends:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze in your bent elbow.
  • Clean your hands often.
  • Wear an appropriate facial covering indoors when you feel you are close enough to others for respiratory droplets to spread. It does not have to be all day; most importantly in common areas and crowded spaces.

The District has received input from stakeholders both in favor of and opposed to mask mandates. There are passionate views on both sides. CMCSS has strongly encouraged students, employees, and visitors to wear face coverings in common areas and when physical distancing cannot be maintained anywhere in a building or on transportation. A mask mandate with the choice to opt-out makes little difference from encouraging masks, and opt-outs are required by the Governor’s Executive Order 84.

As you make and reinforce health choices with your family, please reflect on the impact we can all have on our family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and ourselves.