Weekly Family Update

Weekly Family Update
Posted on 11/13/2020

11/20/2020 Update
At this time of year, we are especially thankful that you are part of the Mason City Schools Family. On behalf of the people who teach your children, feed your children, clean your schools, drive your busses, and help support the people working in your schools, we wish to say “Thank you.” We are grateful for your support, trust, and care - and especially for the gift of being with your children, in-person and online.

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Watch this video of some of our online and in-person staff and students sharing what they are thankful for during this season of gratitude.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 13 students and 5 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of November 16-20, 2020, we had 8 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 22 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 42 staff quarantines, and 331 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

How did the first week of the rapid-testing pilot program go?
We learned a lot! We are excited to have this option for families that will provide more data for public health officials and lawmakers in Ohio, and potentially the country. The test itself is much more accurate than previous versions and also less invasive. It takes about 15 minutes to have results. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper take the test.
(Spoiler alert - his results were negative!)


We tested 30 MHS students who were close contacts who would have had to quarantine (many of whom were on their second or even third quarantine), and 7 MHS students for the comparison group. All of our students had negative tests. 

After Fall Break, MECC, ME, MI and MMS will be able to participate in the Rapid-Testing Pilot once they have enough families who have volunteered to be a part of the comparison group. (Comparison group students must take two tests over two weeks.) 

Volunteer to sign up for the Comparison Group. 

I saw Mr. Cooper’s message last week about the concerning uptick in students expressing suicidal ideation. What should I be looking for to keep my child safe?
Students in Mason and around the country are suffering from mental health issues that have been exacerbated by stressors related to the pandemic. We are seeing increased numbers of students experiencing anxiety and depression related to social isolation. Read more in this Cincinnati Enquirer article. 

Suicide tends to be more likely among those who are dealing with a mental health issue, individuals with a trauma history, or those with a family history of suicide. If you notice your child expressing thoughts about wanting to die, feeling like they have no reason to live, talking about feeling trapped, or searching for information about suicide methods online, seek professional help immediately. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has a psychiatric intake response center staffed 24/7. If you have questions, call 513-636-4124.

My child is an online learner and is in need of mental wellness support. Who should I contact?
All of our students have access to the same mental wellness supports, no matter how they are learning this year. If you have a concern for your student’s mental health, please contact your student’s grade level counselor to set up a virtual or in-person session. If your student is in need of a higher level of clinical care, the school counselor will put in a referral to Cincinnati Children's Hospital and a clinical therapist will reach out and schedule an intake as quickly as possible. Additionally, you may always reach out to our Mental Wellness Supervisor, Nicole Pfirman, at pfirmann@masonohioschools.com for additional support. 

I’m hearing a lot of neighbors saying they are getting together over Fall Break. Are you prepared for an increase in positive cases after Thanksgiving?
The greatest gift each of us can give our family and community this holiday season is to do our part to stop the spread. That means washing our hands, socially distancing, wearing our masks, and foregoing small gatherings. We did see an uptick in positive cases after Halloween, and will be carefully monitoring our data throughout this holiday season as the weather gets colder and more people want to socialize indoors. We know that students are safe in school, and we hope everyone will do their part to keep our schools open. 

What should I do if my child tests positive for COVID-19 during Fall Break?
During Fall Break, if your child has a positive case of COVID-19, please send an email to covid@masonohioschools.com with the child’s name, student ID, school, date of onset of symptoms, and date of positive test. A member of your school team will connect with you about your child’s learning plan the week of November 30th.

How can we support our commUNITY?
Support Mason Schools Foundation while you shop: If you are doing grocery shopping at Kroger or ordering packages from Amazon, there’s an easy way to make your purchases go even further!  

  • Log into your Kroger account and enroll or update your Community Rewards under your Account Settings. Click here for more information and links to register. The number to use for The Mason Schools Foundation is 81641. 
  • AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know–same products, same prices, same service. Support The Mason Schools Foundation by starting your shopping at smile.amazon.com and selecting the Mason Schools Foundation as your charitable organization.

11/13/2020 Update
Well, we made it through Friday the 13th in 2020… so that’s something to celebrate! 

On Monday, students at MHS, MI and ME who are identified as close contacts of a positive case and volunteer to participate in the state’s rapid testing pilot, or who volunteer for the control group, will begin testing. We are grateful that Governor DeWine and his team recognize how important it is that Ohio’s K-12 schools are open. After 14 weeks of being in school we have seen just how effective face masks are for stopping the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to getting more scientific data that will be useful for schools dealing with the quarantine dilemma, and will give schools and communities who may not yet have opened their doors more information about how to safely come back to school in buildings.

 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper answer questions about the pilot, share important reminders as we consider the rising number of COVID+ cases in our community, and speak about the concerning number of online and in-person student hospitalizations for suicidal ideation over the last three weeks.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 20 students and 2 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of November 9-13, 2020, we had 5 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 23 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 44 staff quarantines, and 321 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

If we travel during Thanksgiving, does my child need to quarantine for 14 days when we return?
We encourage families to follow the state's guidance to self-quarantine for 14 days if they have traveled outside the US, or to any state reporting positivity rates of 15% or higher. View the Ohio Department of Health’s travel advisory information, including which states are currently at positivity rates higher than 15%. 

Are in-person learners going to Remote Learning after Thanksgiving Break?
We continue to evaluate multiple data points daily, and at this point are not ready to switch in-person learners to RLE 2.0. Public health experts and Warren County health department officials have continued to affirm that students and staff are safe in school, and that spread is not happening inside our schools. Unfortunately, we are seeing rising trends of community spread - which impacts staffing and our ability to safely hold school. As we have shared previously, if based on data we need to go to remote learning for in-person learners, we might not make that decision for the whole district, but could consider just a classroom (we actually did that this week at MECC) or a school. 

I’ve heard you’ve increased sub pay to $125. How do I sub?
Some school districts have gone to remote learning due to being unable to fill sub needs.  Months ago, our School Board anticipated this concern and at its October 27th board meeting authorized Superintendent Jonathan Cooper to raise sub pay from $85 to $125 during weeks when we saw schools unable to fill sub requests. Mason City Schools started premium sub pay the week of 11/9/2020 - 11/13/2020.  All current and new substitute teachers will earn $125 a day through at least Thanksgiving.  

The Ohio Department of Education issues one-year and five-year multi-age (PreK-12) substitute teaching licenses under Ohio law to applicants who meet qualifications and have been hired to serve in Ohio schools or districts. Click here to learn how to apply or renew your substitute license.

Apply Today to Help Keep Our Schools Open! 
 

I’m concerned about the large number of online learners’ families (particularly at MECC, ME, MI and MMS) who are planning to switch to in-person. Will that make the in-person learners’ class sizes unsafe? 

Our teams are working hard to do scheduling for second semester with a couple of important constraints:

  • We will maintain our commitment to ensure physical distance in classrooms of at least 3 feet. If that cannot be maintained for a grade level or particular subject, we will add an additional teacher which could mean a long-term sub, or an online teacher
  • Recognizing the value of the student-teacher relationship, we will attempt to keep in-person and online class students with their current teachers to the greatest extent possible. This lessens the disruption and relationship-repair needed if we were to make staffing changes that impacted lots of students and families who did not choose to change options.

This year, our one objective for 2020-2021 is “Each learner feels emotionally and physically safe, supported, and empowered to pursue worthy challenges.” Each learner - online or in-person - is important and deserves a high-quality experience. Whether we’re learning virtually or in-person, we’re all in this together!

How can we support our commUNITY?
Comet Cares: Last year, our Comet CommUNITY rallied to ensure that 275 Mason City Schools students were able to celebrate the holidays. This year, our need is even greater. Please consider donating to Joshua’s Place and use the “Mason Cares” fund to provide holiday help and groceries for our food insecure families.


We wish all our families and friends who celebrate the Indian Festival of Lights, “Happy Diwali!”


11/6/2020 update
Today we received official confirmation that the Mason Early Childhood Center, Mason Elementary, Mason Intermediate, Mason Middle School and Mason High School will be part of a 10-district rapid coronavirus test pilot program that is being sponsored by Governor DeWine’s Office, the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the Ohio Department of Health, and the Ohio Department of Insurance.

Since COVID-19 was first discovered in late 2019, we have learned a lot about the virus. And we keep learning more about it. When someone has COVID-19, they are asked to stay home to protect others. This process is called isolation. In addition, people that have been close to the person with COVID-19 are also asked to stay home. These people are called close contacts and the process of staying home is called quarantine. A close contact for COVID-19 is usually based on being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes. Even if the person with COVID-19 and the close contact are both wearing masks correctly, anyone who is within 6 feet for 15 minutes is still considered a close contact.

When the people involved are students, the close contact children are asked to stay home from school. Children who are quarantining can miss a lot of school.

The goal of the evaluation is to see if close contact children need to stay home and miss school even if both the close contacts and the child with COVID-19 were wearing masks correctly. 

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Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper’s video message about the pilot, lessons we have learned about our online and in-person learning models, and short-term and long-term considerations for our district’s instructional model.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 4 students and 4 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of November 2-6, 2020, we had 6 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 7 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 21 staff quarantines, and 158 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

How will this pilot test program work?
School will continue as usual during the pilot. Families who choose to participate will give consent. If a child has COVID-19 during the evaluation, the child will have to stay home for at least 10 days. 

The school and the Warren County health department will find the children who are close contacts of the child with COVID-19. Children who are close contacts may stay in school if both the child with COVID-19 and close contact child were wearing a mask properly and consistently. But to be sure that the close contact children do not have COVID-19, a parent or guardian must agree to letting the child get a test for COVID-19 twice a week.

Some children in the school who are not close contacts will also be asked to have tests for COVID-19 as part of the control group.

High school students in the evaluation will be asked to answer a short survey about their activities. Parents of children who are close contacts or are selected to be a part of the testing program will be asked to give consent for their child’s participation. They will also be asked to do a short survey about their children’s activities. 

How does the COVID-19 test work?
The test being used is called the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card”. It is made by Abbott Laboratories. Our research partners have shared that it has a 95-97% reliability. The test detects tiny pieces of the coronavirus called proteins. The test can be performed quickly with results in about 20 minutes. The test is performed using a swab that is put in the nose. The swab looks like a typical cotton swab (Q-tip). It is put up a nostril no more than one inch, rotated 5 times, and then repeated in the other nostril. The swab is then put on the test card. The person collecting the swab will be a trained health professional.

When will families who requested a switch from online to in-person, or in-person to online be notified of their schedules or teachers?
We are grateful to be able to honor all of our families’ requests that came in before the deadline. There were 427 students whose families chose to switch from online to in-person next semester (91 at MECC, 55 at ME, 79 at MI, 105 at MMS and 97 at MHS) and 101 students whose families chose to switch from in-person to online (3 at MECC, 4 at ME, 10 at MI, 16 at MMS, and 68 at MHS).

Our principals and learning teams are committed to coming up with learning plans for all students that maximize a high-quality experience for students who are switching, while minimizing disruptions for students who are remaining in their current learning option. MECC, ME and MI will communicate new teacher assignments on December 12, and students at all schools will receive schedules and opportunities for orientation before January 4, 2021.

I’m anxious about the election, and I’m not sure how to help my child process what’s happening.

We are all living through history, and it sometimes feels like our nation has never been so divided. This NPR article from the LifeKit desk advises “Be honest and tell them, ‘Dad/Mom is a little nervous about the election.’ It's helpful for kids' social and emotional development to hear you naming your emotions. At the same time, it's not great for you or them to be mainlining the news 24/7, so try your hardest to turn off the TV or the radio, put away your phone and connect — especially over meals and other key moments during the day.” 
 

Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop, notes “that at all costs, we should resist the temptation to label the other side ‘bad guy’ or ‘evil.’ It's not helpful, and it may increase fear and confusion. Instead, talk about people being in pain, being angry, or making choices we disagree with. Empathy, perspective-taking — it's hard to do, but it's also absolutely necessary in a democracy.”
 

How can we support our commUNITY?
Thank a VeteranThe City of Mason is recognizing our nation’s veterans and active military with activities and events in honor of Veterans Day and Mason becoming a Purple Heart City. Join your neighbors in honoring our nation’s heroes by participating in one of the many initiatives taking place throughout the City.


10/30/2020 Update
We hope you are able to enjoy the sunshine this weekend. If your family is planning to participate in trick-or-treating, consider this guidance from the CDC. 

Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper’s video message about how we must stay vigilant in keeping our community healthy, and share how our 3 Big Rocks provide the foundation for us to live and learn together during uncertain and potentially divisive times.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 9 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 26-30, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 12 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 18 staff quarantines, and 92 student quarantines. Since we have finished the month, we have also included cumulative data for the year. Click here to view the data. Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.
 


 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

Why do 7-12 online learners have teachers for their core classes (English, Math, Science and Social Studies) but not electives? Can this be changed?

Due to the wide variety of elective courses offered to our 7-12 students and our model of using an online content provider, we were not able to provide direct teacher support for online elective courses. Our 7-12 online learners do have regular meetings with their learning coach, who helps to monitor students’ progress in electives and connect them to resources, as needed. Due to staffing constraints, this will remain our 7-12 online model for this school year. That said, we also recognize that we might be living with COVID for some time. Our teams will begin work soon to design an improved online model for next year, and will seek family and student feedback as an integral part of our design process through the CommUNITY Conversation model.

Have we had any cases of student positive cases related to in-school exposure?

This month we had our first positive cases that could be traced back to classroom exposure. A specialized classroom at MHS where students are not always able to tolerate mask-wearing was closed for two weeks after two students tested positive. (The original case traced back to community exposure.) Four students and seven staff connected to this class resulted in positive cases. All the impacted students and staff have now returned to school and are doing well. 

There are very few Mason City Schools specialized classrooms with students whose disabilities preclude wearing a mask all day. We have worked with our local public health officials and put additional safety protocols into place. Measures include additional plexiglass in these areas, staff provided with N95 masks, more intentional physical distancing, and additional disinfecting.

What is this about RLE Wednesdays at the high school? Are all students off? Is this the same kind of RLE students would do if we had to move to RLE 2.0 due to COVID spread in our schools or community?
RLE (Remote Learning Experience) Wednesdays are a pilot we are trying at Mason High School in November. Only MHS in-person students will stay home on November 4th, November 11th, and November 18th. The RLE Wednesday will allow high school teachers to provide more synchronous opportunities for their students who are quarantining. These days will function very similarly to last spring’s remote learning experience in that most of the day will be asynchronous learning. If we were to have to move to RLE 2.0 at a building or as a district due to COVID spread in our schools and/or community, there would be much more synchronous learning occurring for all students.


I’ve had friends say that they don’t always receive district and school emails. What should they do?

Sometimes email notifications sent from carsont@masonohioschools.com, contactmason@masonohioschools.com or a Principal through School Messenger could be mistakenly handled by an email provider or program as Spam, Junk or Clutter, so please check these folders first. If these messages go to Spam, Junk or Clutter folders, you can mark their email address as trusted.  Contact your email provider or click here for more information from the web about trusting/whitelisting email addresses.  In addition, sometimes people will accidentally unsubscribe from our emails. We are always happy to help you re-subscribe.

How can we support our commUNITY?
Mason Kiwanis Day of Service: For over 60 years, the Kiwanis Club of Mason has held its annual Pancake Day on the 2nd Saturday of November. Due to the pandemic, the Club is not able to hold this year’s Pancake Day, but instead is planning a CommUNITY Day of Service on Saturday, November 14, 2020 – in partnership with the Mason High School Key Club and Little Helpers. There are four socially distanced, in-person and virtual service projects to benefit our community. 

10/23/2020 Update
The last two weeks have been challenging for some families as they wrestled with making the best choice for their children’s learning option for second semester, especially as the COVID-19 advisory alert system moved Warren County from orange to red. 

Watch this important video message from Warren County Combined Health District’s Dustin Ratliff and Superintendent Jonathan Cooper about what Ohio’s COVID-19 advisory alert system means (and doesn’t mean) for schools, where COVID spread is occurring in our community, how contact tracing is conducted in our schools, and what we can all to do slow the spread. 

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Over 500 families chose to switch learning options for second semester. At MECC, 92 chose to switch to in-person learning and 3 chose to switch to online learning; at ME 56 chose to switch to in-person learning and 5 chose to switch to online learning; at MI 81 chose to switch to in-person learning and 12 chose to switch to online learning; at MMS 105 chose to switch to in-person learning and 16 chose to switch to online learning; at MHS 98 chose to switch to in-person learning and 69 chose to switch to online learning.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 8 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 19-23, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 9 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 21 staff quarantines, and 95 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

I wasn’t able to make my request to switch options before the deadline. Can I still switch?
We are sorry to hear that some families were unable to make their decision until after the deadline had passed. We asked all of our families to be sure that they made their family choice for the second semester by Monday night at 11:59PM. As we have shared in our previous communications to families, the timeline is in place so that we can plan for staffing, allocation of resources, make appropriate placements for our students, etc. There are so many details that happen behind the scenes to pull off this enormous lift in the middle of the school year. In order for us to carefully tend to every personal family situation and choice, we can only honor the switch requests that came in before the deadline in order to have enough time to execute a second semester plan with fidelity.


What happens if Warren County goes purple? How are you making decisions?
Back in July, when Governor DeWine first introduced the color-coded advisory system, we believed this was the system that Ohio schools would use as the main decision making tool for in-person learning options. As we continued working closely with the Warren County Health District, Hamilton County Health Department and Governor DeWine and his team into the early fall, we were told not to use this tool as our main decision making tool. On September 4, we shared with families that a change in color code alone would not automatically trigger a change to the in-learning option. While we continue to analyze and monitor the seven indicators of the advisory alert system as one of our data sources, we also include many local data points in our daily comprehensive data review process. All of these data factor into decisions about moving to and from hybrid or remote learning. 

Consequently, if Warren County is moved to purple, that will not automatically trigger a move to Remote Learning for in-person learners. Instead, any shifts to our in-person learning option would also be tied to local school data that is part of our MCS operational impact index. Those data points include illness absence rates at each school and as a district, number of student and staff COVID+ cases at each school and as a district, number of student and staff quarantine cases at each school and as a district, and ability to staff with substitute teachers/bus drivers/custodians at each school.  

Will MHS be part of Ohio’s rapid test pilot program?
After 10 weeks of in-person learning, our data and experience has shown that the nearly 1,000 Mason High School students who had to quarantine due to close contact exposure in class (closer than 6 feet for 15+ minutes while wearing a face mask) have not contracted COVID-19. Even when they show no symptoms and test negative, they must stay home for 14 days. This creates a burden on our educators, and significant hardships academically and socially for these students. 

Superintendent Jonathan Cooper has been in weekly conversations with Ohio Department of Health Director Lance Himes and Governor Mike DeWine to consider quarantine criteria that might better apply to the controlled school setting. Gov. DeWine’s team is considering MHS as a test site for a low-risk rapid test and return protocol that could significantly lessen the number of students who would need to quarantine if they volunteer to be tested and test negative. The hope is that this pilot could begin in November. 

View WLWT and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s coverage of this issue. 

I’m hearing about some troubling social media behavior in our tweens and teens, where students are sending very hurtful and inappropriate messages to each other. What can be done?
Our school administrators have seen an uptick in the number of online and in-person students reporting disturbing messages primarily sent on Snapchat after school hours where students may say things like “nobody likes you” or request inappropriate photos. One popular add-on to Snapchat that many students use is YOLO, which allows students to interact anonymously with each other on Snapchat. We strongly discourage the use of apps and add-ons that allow for anonymous exchanges; the temptation to say inappropriate things is strong when you believe no one will know you are the messenger. Learn more from Cincinnati Children’s about how online safety requires a mix of monitoring and teaching. 

What are these shoebox floats?
Mason High School’s Student Government invites families, local businesses, and community & school organizations to enter their own “ShoeBox” float as a part of this year’s Homecoming festivities. This year’s theme is Mason MASKarade - and we can’t wait to see the parade of shoebox floats as we celebrate Homecoming as a community. Send a picture of your shoebox float to  shoeboxfloats@gmail.com and/or drop off your family or organization’s float in the Mason High School main entrance vestibule between 7am - 1pm on Sunday!

How can we support our commUNITY?
Mason & Deerfield Community Unity DaysCelebrate our community on Saturday, October 24th! Start the day off at Deerfield Towne Center for the Treat Street Drive-Thru. The community will then be encouraged to stay for lunch or a snack at the many delicious dining options at the center before heading to downtown Mason for the CommUNITY Car Parade. 


10/16/2020 Update
Yesterday, Governor Mike DeWine announced that Warren County’s COVID-19 spread has been upgraded to a level 3 (Red) under the public health advisory. The Governor and Warren County Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury have both noted that the increase in community spread has not come from schools, but instead the source has been family gatherings, weddings, funerals, get togethers with friends, sports teams hanging out after practice, and workplaces becoming more lax in following precautions. 


Watch Superintendent Jonathan Cooper share how MCS continues to monitor multiple data points, and that there will not be a shift to hybrid or RLE at this time.

Mason City Schools’ in-person learners will continue to come to school in-person, five days a week as we continue to monitor multiple data points. The county color alert system is only one data point that we use to inform our decision making. Unless our local health department tells us otherwise, or we see a significant shift in our data, we will stay the course. If there are any immediate changes to our current protocols, we will communicate them right away.

 



Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 6 students and 3 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 12-16, 2020, we had 13 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 14 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 25 staff quarantines, and 164 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

What data points are you considering as you determine if a change in the in-person learning option is needed?
Mason City Schools leaders, in consultation with local and state public health officials, are considering multiple data points, and one data point is not necessarily sufficient to make a switch to hybrid or Remote Learning. Factors we examine daily and weekly include student and staff positive case rates, staff and student quarantine rates, student and staff absentee rates, sub availability, community spread rates, and access to PPE and cleaning supplies.

I thought we were going to go to hybrid as soon as we went to red? What changed?
Governor DeWine unveiled the color-coded state Ohio Public Health COVID advisory system on July 2nd. This tool was designed to help communities be aware of trends in the 7 indicators. In the absence of other tools and data, many Ohio school districts initially considered tying in-person learning options to the various color codes. Governor DeWine, and state and local public health officials have since advised school districts to use multiple data points - including school positive cases.  Today we have more experience and 10 weeks of data to inform our decisions.


“We have 13 new red counties today. Our local health department officials have told us this week that our schools are doing a good job. But what they are seeing is spread from social gatherings,” tweeted Governor DeWine yesterday. 


Do I need to fill out the Learning Option change form if I don’t plan to change?
No. Only families who are requesting a change need to fill out the Learning Option Change Request form. 

Remember, due to the complexity of making changes mid-year, all requests to change options for second semester must be submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, October 19. Click here to request a learning option change. We will not be able to honor any requests to change options that are submitted after the deadline. Change requests that meet the deadline will begin on the first day of second semester, Monday, January 4, 2021.  

Will MMS and MHS online students have more opportunities to come to school to take certain classes, or get synchronous electives during second semester?
No. We cannot accommodate students coming into the building and maintain safety guidelines especially with the amount of contact tracing that is occuring at the high school. All MMS and MHS electives will be asynchronous. 

For a complete description of the online learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

Any word on how the 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option (like a voluntary quarantine) for MHS in-person students is going?
Since offering the temporary remote learning option, we have nearly 200 athletes and musicians who are doing this in order to avoid a quarantine that is required if seated within 6 feet of a positive case while in class. These Marching Band students and athletes want to be in school, but do not want to miss important culminating postseason events. Adding these voluntary remote learners to our nearly 200 MHS students who are in quarantine is becoming a steep logistical burden for our high school educators. We remain committed to coming up with a solution. Our teachers and the high school administrative team are working together to come up with a solution for the second quarter of first semester that will better serve students and their educators. 

What can we do to help keep in-person learners in school?
This is a great time for everyone to follow our safety protocols with fidelity at all-school sponsored events and other social settings throughout the community.

- Mask Up - Nose and Chin covered 
- Wash Hands (20 seconds) often and Use Hand Sanitizer
- Disinfect High Touch Areas 
- Maintain Physical Distance

What should I do if my child needs emotional support or mental wellness support, but doesn’t know where to go for help?
Historically, 1 in 5 students suffer from a mental health disorder. Since the pandemic started, national experts say that has increased to 1 in 2 students. In Mason, we have seen an uptick in the numbers of students and families seeking mental health care. If your child needs help, you or they should reach out to your school counselor or building mental wellness coordinator, use the SafeSchools tip line to self-refer, or call the Warren County Crisis Unit at (877) 695-6333. 

How can we support our commUNITY?
ShineLikeSableHonor the memory of former Mason student Sable Gibson. On October 21st, families are encouraged to spread positivity and kindness by doing a good deed for a neighbor or stranger. Share your random act of kindness on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with #ShineLikeSable.


10/9/2020 Update

Schools and families have more data, information and experience than any of us had back in July when we were making return to learn plans. Anticipating that, in the summer we shared that families would have the opportunity to change options at the semester break. Due to the multiple impacts of option changes on students and staff, we encourage families to remain in their current learning option for the remainder of the school year.
That said, we recognize that for some families there may be a need to request a different learning option for the second semester. There are considerable complex factors when changing learning options in the middle of the year. As a result, students requesting a change will likely have different course selections and teachers than they had in the first semester, or that they requested in spring 2020. Additionally, if there are significant requests to change from one learning option to another in a particular school or grade level, those changes will also impact families who have not requested to change their learning option.

Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing why it is so complex to switch learning options, and some of the potential implications of those changes. 

Request Learning Option Change 
Due to the complexity of making changes mid-year, all requests to change options for second semester must be submitted by 11:59pm on Monday, October 19. Click here to request a learning option change. We will not be able to honor any requests to change options that are submitted after the deadline. Change requests that meet the deadline will begin on the first day of second semester, Monday, January 4, 2021.  

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 14 students and 6 staff members with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of October 5-9, 2020, we had 7 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 14 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 29 staff quarantines, and 160 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.
Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 


Why do we have to make the decision to switch so early?
We recognize that October 19th feels early. When a student requests a switch, multiple systems must adapt in response, including staffing, scheduling, transportation, and food service. This is typically work that happens throughout the spring and summer in preparation for the new school year, and our teams take every day possible to prepare for a smooth transition. An October 19 deadline provides significantly less time to prepare for second semester than teams would typically have, while they also tend to all of their duties to support students while school is in session.

In addition, having just some students make mid-year switches creates a new layer of complexity that is new to all of us, and that our scheduling systems are not designed to handle. If we have a significant number of students request a switch, it will be the equivalent of having a large influx of students transfer from a different school district. Depending on the number of requests, this will require considerable time to execute with accuracy. 

What if I don’t switch, but many other people do?
Unfortunately, other people’s decisions could impact students who remain in their current learning option. For example, if a significant number of elementary students switch from online to in-person learning, remaining online students may end up with a different teacher if their current online teacher needs to be switched to in-person to serve an influx of in-person learners. And, if a significant number of secondary students switch from in-person to online learners, in-person teachers may need to go online in order to support those learners which could change students’ current schedules.

For these reasons, we encourage families to give any request to switch serious consideration and to request the switch only if there has been a significant change in circumstance that requires a change. 

What are some of the implications of requesting a change to in-person learning for my child?

  • they will not be able to switch back to online learning
  • they may experience quarantine (missing school for at least 14 days due to exposure to someone who is COVID+)
  • they will likely have a different teacher(s), including intervention and support staff
  • they could repeat a specials selection (K-6)
  • course availability will be limited and it is likely that course preferences will not be able to be honored, including AP and honors courses (7-12)
  • even if a student is dissatisfied with their schedule or teacher, requests to change options will not be able to be honored after October 19, 2020
  • they could learn in a hybrid or remote learning environment if school/community data requires a shift  

For a complete description of the in-person learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

What are some of the implications of requesting a change to online learning for my child?

  • they will not be able to switch back to in-person learning
  • they will likely have a different teacher(s), including intervention and support staff
  • they could repeat a specials selection (K-6)
  • course availability will be limited and it is likely that course preferences will not be able to be honored, including AP and honors courses (7-12)
  • even if a student is dissatisfied with their schedule or teacher, requests to change options will not be able to be honored after October 19, 2020

For a complete description of the online learning model, please visit the 20-21 Return to Learn Guide.

What if there is a change in the quarantine rules that comes after the deadline?
We are very encouraged by Governor DeWine’s announcement this week that he has asked his team to partner with the health/scientific community to study the current guidance on student quarantine. We are hopeful Mason High School will be one of 10 Ohio schools who will run frequent strip COVID-19 tests of those individuals who would normally be quarantined. Our understanding is that if students needed to quarantine due to close contact (closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) they would have the option to participate in the strip testing rather than automatically quarantining for 14 days. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to examining the issue, and getting more data and evidence. Still, we also recognize that any long-term change to the rules will not happen soon, and likely not before the October 19th deadline. Families will need to make a decision based on what we know now.


What if we get a vaccine? Could we end up all in-person then?
Even if there is a vaccine available before the end of the school year, students whose families chose online learning will remain in that option.

Will there still be a 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option (like a voluntary quarantine) for MHS in-person students who have qualified for post-season competitions or performances?
If the quarantine rules would change, we may no longer need to offer the 2-week temporary Remote Learning Option for in-person MHS students who have qualified for post-season competitions or performances. We will evaluate the current pilot’s effectiveness and impact and use that data to inform future decisions. 

I just got my absentee ballot. What are Issues 13-21?
There are 9 issues related to levies that were previously approved by Mason City Schools’ voters on the November 2020 ballot. Each issue proposes to reduce district revenue by 0.01 mills. These issues were not placed on the ballot by the Mason City School District’s Board of Education.  Voting Yes for the issue reduces the district’s local revenue. Voting No against the issue maintains the district’s local revenue.

How can we support our commUNITY?
HOMECOMING 2020:  MHS STUGO, MHS and Mason City Schools cordially invite families, local businesses, and community & school organizations to enter a “ShoeBox” float as a part of this year’s Homecoming festivities. This year’s theme is Mason MASKarade - and we can’t wait to see the parade of shoebox floats. Homecoming Week is October 26-30th.  We’d love to see your family’s float and show our commUNITY spirit during HOCO 2020! Send pictures of your family’s float to HOCO2020@masonohioschools.com. 


10/2/2020 Update

The City of Mason was recently named one of the 50 best places to live in the US by
Money Magazine. Congratulations to local businesses, City partners, schools and neighbors who contribute so much to Mason Quality. Our CommUNITY is always #1 to us!


Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing answers to some of your questions about Governor DeWine’s interest in our data and implications for quarantine, steps we’re taking to try to keep the 532 students who have been on quarantine from having to do that for a second time, patterns we have noticed with positive cases, how online families will take state tests, and supports for online and in-person learners who may be struggling with our “new normal.”
 

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 3 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. At the end of the week of September 14-October 2, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 4 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 10 staff quarantine, and 113 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Many of you have expressed an interest in viewing Mason City Schools cumulative COVID-19 data. With two months of school under our belts, we thought it might be helpful to begin sharing this at the end of each month. 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

What is the district doing to try to keep MHS students from being quarantined for a second time due to close contact exposure?
The high school has come up with a number of short-term solutions, as we continue to ask elected officials to consider the science and data from two months of being back to school, and the implications that none of our close contact, in-school quarantines have turned into positive cases. For students who have already been on quarantine, teachers are working to try to give them preferential seating so that they are 6 feet apart when seated. MHS is also creating a Quarantine room that students can elect to go to so that they can still have time to access their teachers, but remain in a separate environment with 6 feet of distance guaranteed. Finally, the high school is temporarily allowing students involved in post season interscholastic competition to voluntarily quarantine for 2 weeks so that they do not have to miss an important game or performance.

Some online families have reported quite a bit of variance in how long it takes their students to complete their work. What’s “normal”?
In-person learners also often learn at different paces. When we look at survey data from our online learners, it’s almost a perfect bell curve of students sharing that their work is too hard, just right and too easy. If your child is routinely finishing very quickly, check out some of the optional activities that they can do, encourage them to read, explore an interest offline, or reach out to your child’s teacher. If they are routinely struggling with completing work and it seems too difficult, please reach out to your child’s teacher.

Do the cleaning products you’re using cause clothing stains?
As part of our enhanced daily cleaning procedures, we use a product called Vital Oxide on surfaces after each lunch, and at the end of the day - though some educators have used it more frequently in their classrooms. Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant cleaner, mold and mildew killer, and odor eliminator. With its ready-to-use formula designed to be gentle to users but tough on germs, Vital Oxide is non-irritating to skin, non-corrosive to most treated articles, NSF-certified (no rinse required) for food-contact surfaces, and listed as a category IV (lowest toxicity category) pesticide with the EPA. We have had a few issues with clothing stains when people sit in a spot where Vital Oxide has pooled.  We have reminded staff to make sure that it is not pooled before students sit down, and to only use the district’s cleaning products.

How can we support our commUNITY?
WLWT Day of Giving: On Thursday, October 8th Mason City Schools will participate in Channel 5’s Day of Giving. You can TEXT TO GIVE from the station’s website and social media on October 8th, or you can choose to make a donation of canned chicken or chili, mac & cheese cups, canned fruit, or dry pasta to the Comet Cupboard at the Mason Intermediate Circle from 4-6PM.

9/25/2020 Update
Yesterday during his press conference, Ohio Governor DeWine shared that he asked his team to look at Mason City Schools data, and consider that controlled K-12 school settings where everyone wears a mask may warrant a different approach to quarantine. The Governor also signalled that there may not be an answer to our quarantine dilemma soon. 


Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing that after being in school for 5 weeks while we haven’t seen an uptick in positive cases of COVID-19, we do have a concerning trend with the number of Mason High School students who have been in quarantine. When students are in quarantine they are at risk of missing weeks of in-person learning which impacts their mental wellness, academic success and extracurricular opportunities.  We could need to move to a hybrid schedule for Mason High School soon if we do not find relief to this issue.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 7 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. We have 292 students who have returned to school after being quarantined.  At the end of the week of September 21-September 25, 2020, we had 2 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 8 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 1 staff quarantine, and 191 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

Would the whole district go to hybrid if we had to move to that due to the quarantine situation at MHS?
No. Right now this is really an MHS issue. If our quarantine data at MHS does not improve (and MECC, ME, MI and MMS continue their trends) and it becomes necessary to move to hybrid for MHS, we would only go to hybrid at MHS and remain 5 days in-person learning at all the other schools.

Would MHS online families get to move to hybrid if the school is not able to continue doing in-person learning 5 days a week?
Unfortunately this is not possible during the first semester because the course offerings and staffing is different. 

Is there anything families can do to advocate for a change in the close contact rules in K-12 schools?
Thank you so much for your support. We are grateful for families’ willingness to advocate for our students. Please consider reaching out to Governor DeWine and thank him for his consideration of the quarantine dilemma, and for allocating time with his team to consider Mason City Schools data and the implications it could hold for close contact rules in all of Ohio’s K-12 schools. 

When will families be able to sign up for second semester option changes if they want to go from online to in-person, or in-person to online?
The week of October 5th we will outline the process for families to elect a different learning option for second semester. 

How can we support our commUNITY?
Mason Schools Foundation Virtual Gala Please support our educators’ visions of taking their students above & beyond… especially in these extraordinary times. Consider donating to this year’s Inclusive Excellence paddle call, a straight donation, or bid on items in the Silent Auction! (And, if you want to join the fun, tune into the Mason Schools Foundation’s Facebook page at 7pm to watch the “program” - from the comfort of home!)

9/18/2020 Update
It has been wonderful to see spirit days and other school fun this week as we finish our first month of school. A special congratulations to Mason High School’s 29 National Merit Semifinalists - the most in Greater Cincinnati once again!

Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing answers to some of your questions about actions we are taking to lessen the quarantine risk for MHS students, what happens during the hybrid model, and why families cannot change learning options now for the first semester. 

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. This week we had 5 students and 1 staff member with NEW positive cases of COVID-19. We have modified our weekly update graphic to include these numbers so that families can compare the number of new COVID cases with the total number of students or staff who are currently in quarantine or isolation due to a positive case at the end of each week.

At the end of the week of September 14-September 18, 2020, we had 2 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 5 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 1 staff quarantine, and 157 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 
Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

What is the district doing to try to keep MHS students from being quarantined?
Superintendent Jonathan Cooper has connected with Governor DeWine, the top physician leading the Cincinnati Children's COVID task force, and multiple local health departments about the current quarantine protocols. Our data over the first month of school seems to be proving that 3 foot distance with masks is working. According to our public health partners, outside factors and social events have been the source of the small number of positive cases at MHS. This leads us to believe that there has to be a different way to think about the quarantine process in controlled school settings. We continue to monitor our data closely, and work with health leaders from around the state to see if there is an alternative way for us to approach quarantine. However, if we determine that the best decision for our Mason High School students, teachers and families is to move to a hybrid approach for in-person learners (50% of MHS students report every other day) we will make the move to hybrid and communicate this change to our families. 

Do the free meals for Mason City Schools students really apply to all students, or is it only for families whose income falls within the limits of the federal income eligibility guidelines?
At this time, the Federal government has opened this up for all students. We do encourage families who might need more long-term help to submit free & reduced meal applications so that their children can continue to receive meals after the program ends. 
In-Person Learners: In order to qualify as a free lunch, students must select a minimum of 1 fruit or vegetable, plus 2 other components to be considered a lunch meal and to receive at no charge. They will go through the lunch line and put in their number, and only be charged for any extra items (additional entrée items, milk, beverages, additional fruits/vegetables) or a la carte items that may still be purchased (and charged) to your student’s meal account.
Online Learners: Online families may pick up meal packs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Mason Intermediate Circle from 1:15 PM to 2:00 PM.  You must pre-order meals by calling 513-229-4444 or email foodservice@masonohioschools.com. Families may pre-order in advance for up to 4 weeks.

You all have a lot of different systems. How do I know where I go for which thing?
We continue to search for the one system that will unlock everything for families, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to exist today! Please check out this quick reference guide that explains what eLink, Final Forms, HAC, Mason Connects, Safe Arrival, School Messenger, SeeSaw and Schoology are used for, and watch quick tutorial videos about each site.

How can we support our commUNITY?
Register for the Mason Schools Foundation Virtual Gala: Did you know that you can stay dressed in comfy clothes and watch the Virtual Gala streaming on Facebook at home this year? Watch this  Gala Tutorial Video to learn how to register for the September 26th Virtual Gala, and get the option to make a $50 donation and receive a 2020 Commemorative Mason Time Capsule Memory Box, purchase a family meal from The Manor House Event Center for the evening's festivities, and make a donation directly to the Mason Schools Foundation to assist in funding innovative projects and grants that take students in Mason City Schools above and beyond! 


We are reminded of what a special community we live in when a beloved Comet died and within 24 hours families raised more than $10,000 for Jared Camacho’s family. On behalf of Jared’s educators, friends and family, we are so very grateful.

We wish our Jewish families and friends “Shana Tova” or Happy New Year!

9/11/2020 Update

Even before the pandemic, Mason City Schools has been intentionally investing in mental wellness supports for students. Fear and anxiety about COVID-19, and public health actions such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Last year, the district established a new mental wellness department that includes mental wellness coordinators on each campus, 21 school counselors, a district resource coordinator, and a clinical team including a nurse practitioner and 7 clinical therapists provided by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. This year, we are proud to announce a new partnership with Cincinnati Children's to provide in-person and online learners access to private mental health support services for students as part of our district's commitment to ensuring that each learner feels emotionally and physically safe. If you or your child need support, please reach out to your child’s counselor - we're here to help!

Watch WLWT’s coverage of our partnership with Cincinnati Children’s.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

At the end of the week of September 8-September 11, 2020, we had 0 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff, 11 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 2 staff quarantines, and 127 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 



Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

As the numbers of quarantines grow at the high school, is there any consideration to change how you determine a close contact?
Unfortunately, the way a close contact is determined (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) is not up to Mason City Schools. We must follow the guidelines from our public health partners at the Warren County Health Department and Ohio Department of Health. We continue to monitor the numbers of quarantines at Mason High School very closely, as we know there are educational, social and emotional ramifications to staying at home for 14 days. At this time, none of the students who have been sent home from school to quarantine after coming into close contact with a positive case have tested positive for COVID-19 or become ill. 
We will continue to monitor these numbers closely, and will consider moving to hybrid if the MHS numbers continue to rise. Based on our data at the high school over the last three weeks, we recognize that in our current 5 day a week, in-person learning model, high school students will likely experience quarantine at some point this year.  It is important to have conversations with your teen about this possibility. Please know we are also working with our teachers and counselors to ensure that students stay connected while in quarantine, and we will continue to get better as we navigate this new normal together.


Would you consider going to hybrid for only one school - not the whole district?
We know that moving to the hybrid model will be disruptive to families, and consequently, we would consider moving to hybrid in only one school if our data leads us to believe that is the best option. Remember, in the hybrid (blended) model, students would come to school every other day.
We continue to monitor our school community COVID-positive data, absence rates, staff absence rates, and individual school data daily. If there would be a change in learning status for in-person students (as a district or for an individual school) we would strive to give as much lead time as possible on that notification. View a chart with more information.

How do you know when to keep your Comet home?
If they have ANY high risk COVID-19 symptom (new cough, fever, or new loss of  taste or smell) OR 2 or more low risk COVID-19 symptoms. Also keep your child home if they are being quarantined after being exposed (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes). If you get a COVID-19 test, keep your child home until you receive negative tests results and are 24+ hours without fever and improved symptoms. Routine testing of asymptomatic children with known COVID exposure is not recommended. 

If my child has to quarantine due to close contact, do their siblings have to quarantine too?
No. Siblings of a child who is quarantining due to being in close contact with a positive case do not need to quarantine. Our public health partners have reminded us that “a contact of a contact is not a contact.”

How do I help my online learner stay socially connected?
Online families looking for opportunities to build social connections for their children may wish to join the MCS online Facebook community to identify opportunities to connect with other online families.  Families have also allowed students to use via Facebook Messenger for Kids as a way to stay connected virtually. MMS and MHS students can continue to participate in clubs and activities.

How can we support our commUNITY?
Patriot Day of ServiceWe will never forget all the moms, dads, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues who we lost on September 11th, and the bravery of our first responders. Our neighbor, Wendy Faulkner, died on 9/11/01 in the south tower of the World Trade Center. She was on the 104th floor for a one-day meeting. As our children were not born and do not have first-hand memories of September 11th, it is increasingly important that we explain the significance of these events, and the many who rose in service in response to the attacks. If your family plans to remember our heroes by safely volunteering today or this weekend, consider registering your project with the National Day of Service, and sharing with us.

9/4/2020 Update

Thanks for all of your support during our first all-in week with in-person learners, and when getting in the rhythm of school with online learners!

Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing answers to some of your questions about our school district’s role in contact tracing, actions we are taking following a “zoom bombing incident,” and ways to talk with your children about hurtful social media.

Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

At the end of the week of August 31-September 4, 2020, we had 1 confirmed, first-hand positive case of COVID-19 among staff, 2 confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 3 staff quarantines, and 44 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

Is it possible still to switch from online to in-person, or in-person to online?
Due to the intricacies of staffing and scheduling, we are not able to change options at this time. We have found that some families who thought they needed to switch have changed their minds after letting their child adapt to their new learning routines. Later this fall, we will share the process for requesting changes for the second semester. If you have a specific concern, please reach out to your child’s principal so that we can problem-solve with you.

There was a “Zoom Bombing” incident where a racial slur was used during our virtual classes. What is the district doing?
We continue to investigate this terrible violation of our learning community. We connected with the instructor and students who were the victims of this incident to provide support and follow up. In order to make sure that our students feel emotionally and physically safe at school, we have put some additional safety measures into place. 

  • All students will go to a waiting room prior to entering a class meeting, and will need to use their MasonOhioSchools.com email account. Students will not be let in without a MasonOhioSchools.com email.
  • Students will not be permitted to change their screen name from their preferred name that is registered in HAC when entering a class meeting.
  • Any required passcodes to enter a Zoom meeting will only be shared with the student’s MasonOhioSchools.com email.
  • Students may be asked to briefly turn on their video to authenticate and take attendance in meetings. (If for some reason your family has a concern about video, please connect with your teachers directly.)

The FBI is actively investigating incidents like this from around the country. Mason City Schools students who use racial slurs face school disciplinary consequences, including suspension from school. 

When a student is quarantined due to close contact, what happens next?
When a student needs to quarantine due to close contact exposure (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), the student’s family will be notified by phone call and email.  Unless prevented by health concerns, students should continue to engage with learning during their quarantine including completing assignments, assessments, and other learning activities. Your child’s counselor will contact you or your child within one business day, and within two business days the counselor (MMS & MHS) and/or teacher (MECC, ME & MI) will share information about the learning activities that your child can complete to stay on track with the class. If a student is not well enough to learn, they will be reported absent due to illness.

Are there any additional measures you are taking to help stop the spread and keep students whose families chose in-person learning in school?
Students and staff have done a terrific job of wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and practicing hand hygiene. We are proud of how everyone is doing their part to stay in school! Over the last two weeks, we have had several positive cases of COVID-19 among student-teachers. We greatly appreciate our student-teachers and the ability to help shape the education profession. Due to our experience and the increased positivity rates at local universities, we are currently working with our university partners to develop more comprehensive safety protocols for student-teachers who will teach inside our schools. 

How can we support our CommUNITY?
Register for the Mason Schools Foundation VIRTUAL GalaCOMETogether with Mason City Schools families, staff and community partners to support the Foundation’s mission to fund innovative grants and programs that help take ALL Mason students Above and Beyond.  Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the many successes of the year including recent grant recipients, teachers of the year and the Campbell’s Family Founders Award recipients. Purchase a family ticket NOW which includes a 2020 Mason Memory Box, and an option to purchase a family meal from the Manor House, or to simply make a donation!

Enjoy this beautiful Labor Day weekend! (No school on Monday.)


8/28/2020 Update
It felt wonderful to #COMETogether during our first week of school! We hope the staggered start allowed your learner to feel confident about returning to learn. Regular feedback from our students, staff and families is an important part of Mason City Schools rhythm of work. Please complete this
short survey about the first week of school.


Whether your Comet is learning in-person or online, we are so excited to be back. Watch this video from #MCSDay 1!



Each week, we share the number of first-hand, confirmed positive staff and student cases of COVID-19, and the number of quarantines in Mason City Schools. Reasons for quarantine could include: travel, close contact with a positive case (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more), or waiting on COVID-19 test results. Quarantine does not include positive case isolations which is reflected in the number of confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19.

During the week of August 24-28, 2020, we had zero confirmed, first-hand positive cases of COVID-19 among staff or students, 2 staff quarantines, and 10 student quarantines. Click here to view the data. 

First Week of School

Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

If my child isn’t sick, but we have done a COVID test, can I send them to school?
Please keep your child home until their test results come back and confirm that they are negative for COVID-19. There are times when people are asymptomatic, yet still positive - which would mean we would have to quarantine anyone who was in close contact with your child if you later found that they were positive. 

There is a concerning Instagram account that is filled with hate speech and is bullying Mason students. What is the district doing?
We are troubled by an Instagram account that sprang up on Wednesday, August 26th. We had many members of our school community step up against bias and report this account on our SafeSchools Tipline, and directly to MCS administrators. We believe this account meets Instagram’s definition of a hate account, and was established to bully and harass MHS students. Consequently, it is disturbing that Instagram did not take action when asked to do so. We are continuing to investigate, and recommend that families talk to their children about their family’s expectations. Here is a Common Sense Media resource about Instagram for parents. 

My child’s device is no longer working. What do I do?
Chromebook Repair for Option 2 Families 
All Chromebooks in need of repair should be brought to the Mason High School lobby, 6100 Mason-Montgomery Rd. We will provide a loaner device for your child’s use until their device is repaired. You will receive an email when your device is repaired. Pickup will also be at MHS regardless of your child’s school enrollment.

Chromebook Repair for Option 1 Families
MHS and MMS students should go to the Media Center or Learning Commons to receive a loaner Chromebook, and to explain the issue you’re currently experiencing. Elementary families should contact the school, and we will make appropriate arrangements for your child.

What if my Option 1 - In Person Student needs to quarantine due to an exposure or positive Covid19 test result?
Unless prevented by health concerns, students should continue to engage with learning during their quarantine including completing assignments, assessments, and other learning activities (posted to SeeSaw in grades PK-2 and Schoology in grades 3-12). Students should check SeeSaw (PK-2) or Schoology (3-12) daily for updated information in order to stay on track with the class and ensure they are prepared to return to class. Students who engage in learning will be counted as present unless their parents contact the school advising that the student is ill and cannot participate. 

How is attendance taken for my Option 2 Online Student?
PK-6: If a student attends their scheduled morning meeting and scheduled small group each day then they are considered present. Teachers will report attendance at the end of each school day.

7-12: A student is considered present each day if they log into SchoolsPLP/APEX and are active with course content and attend any synchronous class and/or Comet Connections meetings scheduled for the day. Students can engage in course content in SchoolsPLP/APEX at any time in a 24 hour period. Attendance will be reported the following day (e.g., a student’s attendance for Monday will be reported on Tuesday so that student can engage in content at any time during the day or evening).

How do I tell you if my child is ill?
Whether your child is an online learner or an in-person learner, it is important that you let your school know if your child is ill and unable to come to the building (in-person learning) or log on (online learning.)  Families should report their absence to the school attendance officer.

There are 3 ways to let us know your child is absent:
1.) Call  855-339-9012
2.) Visit go.schoolmessenger.com
3.) Use the School Messenger App. (Download  from the App Store or Google Play)

How can fans watch the Comets this fall?
Last spring, one hard consequence of the pandemic was grieving with our student-athletes who did not get their chance to shine as their seasons were cancelled or cut short. This fall, we join our athletes and their families as we all proclaim #WeWantaSeason! In order to ensure our student-athletes get a season, we have put a number of important safety and health measures into place - including limiting spectators.

For the ticketed sports of Football, Soccer, and Volleyball, each athlete who is rostered for that individual contest has the opportunity to purchase up to 3 family tickets. Family tickets can consist of parents, guardians, brothers, sisters, or grandparents. Tickets will be sold to parents of rostered players, cheerleaders and band members. A list of parents of each respective player, cheerleader, band member will be at entrance gates for both home and visiting teams.

ICRC-TV will be out this Friday to provide LIVE coverage of the Fairfield @ Mason Varsity Football game. Live Coverage will be available at https://www.icrctv.com/video/football-20-fairfield-mason

How can we support our commUNITY?
Stepping Up For Inclusion:  As our country grapples with racial injustice, it can be difficult to know what to say, and when to say it, to our children. Psychiatrists note that children as young as three notice and comment on differences in skin color. Without guidance, children are likely to develop biased attitudes from exposure to negative racial stereotypes and disparities. Here are some tips for talking to your child about racial bias

8/21/2020 Update
Dear Mason City Schools Family,


We were so happy to see many of you in-person and virtually during this week’s Family Orientations, and can’t wait to welcome your Comet to Return to Learn next week. Our educators and staff have been busy preparing for your child. Whether your child is learning in-person or online, we are all ready to #COMETogether!

Watch this video of Superintendent Jonathan Cooper sharing answers to some of your questions about how we keep school open, what happens when a Comet is positive for COVID-19, how to prepare your student for online learning, and what's happening this Saturday!

For at least the first month of school, you will receive a district email each Friday to answer questions and to provide updates. Since July 1, 2020, there have been 7 first-hand confirmed staff and student cases of COVID-19 in Mason City Schools. Below are common questions from our families and the public, and our responses. 

When and where does my child report during the first week of school?

In-Person Learners in Group 1: ADJUST

  • Report to SCHOOL on Monday, August 24th and Thursday, August 27th
  • On Tuesday, August 25th and Friday, August 28th, students are HOME. Families can check their email and/or students (grades 3-12) can check Schoology for a message from their principals.
  • On Wednesday, August 26th, log into SeeSaw (grades K-2) or Schoology (grades 3-12) from HOME for a practice RLE 2.0 day. Teachers will provide information about when and how to connect.

In-Person Learners in Group 2: ADAPT

  • Report to SCHOOL on Tuesday, August 26th and Friday, August 28th
  • On Monday, August 24th and Thursday, August 27th, students are HOME. Families can check their email and/or students (grades 3-12) can check Schoology for a message from their principals.
  • On Wednesday, August 26th, log into SeeSaw (grades K-2) or Schoology (grades 3-12) from HOME for a practice RLE 2.0 day. Teachers will provide information about when and how to connect. 

Online Learners

  • Grades PK-6: Students learn from HOME beginning Monday, August 24th. Follow the directions for connecting that your teacher shared during orientation. If you have any questions please reach out to your homeroom teacher.
  • Grades 7-8: Students learn from HOME beginning Monday, August 24th. Details and links for meeting times will be sent to families in a separate email from Dr. Shanna Bumiller, Learning Experience Supervisor, by 4pm on Saturday. 
  • Grades 9-12: Students learn from HOME beginning Monday, August 24th or Tuesday, August 25th. Details and links for meeting times will be sent to families in a separate email from Dr. Shanna Bumiller, Learning Experience Supervisor, by 4pm on Saturday.

#MCSDay1
For some of our Comets, the first day of school is Monday, August 24th. For other Comets, the first day is Tuesday, August 25th. Online or In-Person, we're ready to #COMETogether and celebrate #MCSDay1 with a Photo Contest! Whether you’re a student, parent or staff member, we want to see your first day Mason Moments on your front porch, at your bus stop & in your classroom - whether that's located at school or at home!

 

Post your photos in the Facebook comments on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #MCSDay1 and #COMETogether. Be sure to also tag the Mason Schools Facebook page (@masonohschools), Twitter account (@MasonSchools) or Instagram account (@masoncityschools). At the end of the week, we will tally up the elementary and secondary photos with the most votes (or "likes") and the two winners will receive some Comet spirit gear!

 

What happens when there is a positive case of COVID-19 in Mason City Schools?

We've worked with local public health partners to develop protocols for cleaning, contact tracing, and communication when we receive a first-hand account of a positive case of COVID-19 in our schools. View the MCS COVID-19 Positive Case Protocols to learn more.

  • If your child is positive for COVID-19, please let us know through our SafeArrival attendance system so that we can work with our local public health partners to conduct contract tracing.
    - Call  855-339-9012 
    - Visit go.schoolmessenger.com 
    - Use the School Messenger App. (Download  from the App Store or Google Play)
     
  • If your child has had close contact (within 6 feet with or without a mask for >15 min) to someone who has a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, or if you are currently waiting for your child’s test results, please do not send your child to school.

What do I need to do before sending my child to school?

To protect the health and safety of others, all Mason City Schools students and staff members are required to perform a daily COVID-19 health check prior to coming to school or work.
 

Please send in an extra face mask with your child so that they have a back up if needed.
 

Where do I check my bus information if my family is returning to learn in person?

eLink is your way to find your child’s bus route details - all in real time. Routes may continue to be adjusted, so it’s a great idea to check eLink the night before school starts.

To access Elink, visit: https://versatransweb04.tylertech.com/mason/elinkrp/login.aspx

Login:   Enter child’s Student ID
Password: Enter child’s date of birth in mmddyyyy format

How can I make sure my emergency medical info is updated?

It is very important that we have all your child’s updated medical contact information. Please complete the Emergency Medical Authorization on Final Forms before the first day of school. 

When can I pay school fees?

We encourage families to pay school fees online using EZpay. Your school fees will be loaded into EZpay by the end of next week.

Not registered for EZ Pay?  For a free, easy one-time registration, visit www.spsezpay.com/Mason/login.aspx, follow the on-screen instructions to create an account and add your students using their Student ID number. 

How can we support our commUNITY?
COMETogether Food Trucks: COMETogether and kick off the 2020-2021 school year with food trucks on Saturday, August 22nd from 4-8pm. Delicious sweet and savory offerings will be throughout Mason City Schools neighborhoods, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mason Schools Foundation!   


Be well,

Tracey Carson

Public Information Officer

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