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September 9, 2021

The local health department has updated quarantine protocols for residents of Hillsdale, Branch and St. Joseph counties.  The information sheets from the health department are attached to this update.  

The newly released order details requirements for any individual who resides, attends school, or is employed within Branch, Hillsdale, or St. Joseph Counties, who is notified that they are a COVID-19 close contact. Individuals who are notified as a COVID-19 close contact are ordered to quarantine for ten (10) days, or 7 days for an individual with no symptoms and a negative diagnostic test taken 5 days or more days post-exposure, as described in guidelines established by the CDC. The Order is effective September 3, 2021 and remains in effect until further Order of the Health Officer.

Here are a couple of questions that students and their parents may have as a result of the updates:

How is a student identified as a Close Contact at school?  

A: Schools are required to conduct Close Contact tracing when a case of COVID is identified at school or at a school event (sports competition,practice, concert, etc…) and submit that list of names to the local health department.  The perimeters used at the school is currently “within 6 feet for 15 minutes” of combined time within a 24 hour time period.    

Does being a Close Contact automatically mean a person has to quarantine?  

A: No.  There are exemptions for people who won’t have to automatically quarantine.  Those exemptions include persons without any symptoms of illness, including fully vaccinated, persons who recovered from a confirmed case of COVID within the past 90 days, or when all persons were fully masked during their close contact time together and had a minimum of 3 foot distance.  Because vaccinated persons can still contract COVID, these exemptions apply only when the person does not have primary symptoms of COVID illness. 

How will parents know if their child (student) is required to quarantine? 

A: All quarantine orders are issued by the local health department.  The health department sends out notification letters using email.  A paper copy is also sent through the regular postal mail.  The health department’s sender email address shows up as  “Bhsj 30” or “bhsk30@bhsj.org” 

The health department has not been able to reach some families via email and the paper letters can take several days to arrive in the mailbox.  As a result, the school will also try to reach out to parents when a student’s name has been submitted as Close Contact at school. This will be a courtesy message to inform the family that a student has been identified as a Close Contact at school.  The email or phone message may come from the school nurse, school secretary or another staff member assigned to help make these courtesy contacts. 

Is it recommended that a student begin a voluntary quarantine if a family receives a courtesy message from the school about a close contact exposure? 

A: Yes. It is recommended for the student to quarantine, unless the student has a documented exemption (fully vaccinated, recovered from COVID within the prior 90 days).  The objective with the message from the school is to let families know what we know as soon as possible.  If a student does qualify with an exemption for quarantine that information must be clarified and documented between the family and a health department official.  The school is obligated to use the information provided to us by the health department.

Is a student required to immediately quarantine when the health department issues a quarantine order?

A: Yes. Schools are required to comply/follow a quarantine order made to a student from the health department. In some cases, the school may receive the health department’s notice prior to the family.  This could happen because the health department is also required to notify the school of students ordered to quarantine.  

When can a student who is required to quarantine because of a Close Contact exposure come back to school?   

A: The Order details the requirements for any individual who resides, attends school, or is employed within Branch, Hillsdale, or St. Joseph Counties, who is notified that they are a COVID-19 close contact. Individuals who are notified as a COVID-19 close contact are ordered to quarantine for ten (10) days, or 7 days for an individual with no symptoms and a negative diagnostic test taken 5 days or more days post-exposure, as described in guidelines established by the CDC.

Can an antigen test kit performed at home be used to return to school after 7 days?

A: No.  The health department requires the test be collected by a 3rd party (testing facility such as a pharmacy, hospital, walk-in clinic, etc.) with results reported to the local health department. 

 

The next section below are additional “Frequently Asked Questions” taken directly from the local health department’s website.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding BHSJCHA’s Quarantine Order 

Q: What is a diagnostic test? A diagnostic test is used to determine if a person has a disease. The best diagnostic test is called a PCR test; however, antigen tests can also identify COVID but does it best in people who are symptomatic. For individuals without symptoms an antigen test will be accepted. For individuals with symptoms, a PCR test is required. 

Q: Where can I get tested? In Branch, Hillsdale, and St. Joseph Counties testing can be done at some pharmacies, walk-in clinics, hospitals, and testing centers. The local health department provides space to a company that contracts with MDHHS to offer free testing weekly, curbside. In Coldwater on Thursdays and in Hilldale and Three Rivers on Fridays. The same testing contractor offers free testing at the Welcome Center on I-69 7-days a week. 

Q: Can I take a home test? Not for this purpose. Only a test collected by a 3rd party (testing facility such as a pharmacy, hospital, walk-in clinic, etc.) with results reported to the local health department. 

Q: I’m fully vaccinated, if I have a close contact exposure do I have to quarantine? To reduce their risk of becoming infected with the Delta variant and potentially spreading it to others: CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people: 

  • Wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. 

  • Fully vaccinated people might choose to mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated. 

  • People who are at increased risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart conditions. 

  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. 

  • If you came into close contact with someone with COVID-19 get tested 3-5 days after the date of your exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result. 

  • Isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. 

  • Follow any applicable federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

Quarantine Order 9.3.21.pdf 

Frequently_Asked_Questions_Regarding_BHSJCHA.pdf 

 

END OF UPDATE

August 16, 2021

Dear Parents, Guardians, & Friends:

Schools start in Hillsdale County on Tuesday, August 24. We are excited to see your children back in the buildings. All of the schools in the county have received numerous requests for information about mask-wearing and other changes that were brought about by the Pandemic. 

The schools in Hillsdale County have worked closely with the local health department, Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ), from the start of the Pandemic and continue to do so. The schools have also taken counsel from Hillsdale Hospital, the CDC guidelines, legislative actions, attorneys, the MDE, and any other reliable source. 

The public schools in Hillsdale County would like to share that mask-wearing is your choice as the parent or guardian of your child.  However, there are some exceptions that we’ve detailed below:

1)    Special Education classrooms with medically vulnerable students will require masks for students and staff. The following programs are included in the mask requirement: Cognitive Impairment Programs K-12 (located at Hillsdale Preparatory School and Hillsdale Community High School), Autism Programming K-8 (located at Hillsdale Preparatory School), and Young Adult Programming 18-26 year olds (located on the Hillsdale High School Campus). 

2)    Isolated cases where a certain population of students or staff begin experiencing symptoms or positive cases, may be required to wear masks;

3)    Any other type of outbreak, for example, an athletic team or club, mask-wearing may be required;

4)    School transportation has been mandated that masks are worn as the bus is classified as public transportation;

5)    If we begin to notice an influx of cases in the area, masks may be required; or

6)    In the case of legislative action mandating masks-wearing. 

The schools will continue using cleaning strategies that were found helpful and in the best practice for maintaining excellent sanitization in the buildings.  Thank you for your partnership with us to keep our children safe, healthy, and learning.

Sincerely,

Hillsdale County Superintendents

 

August 3, 2021

 

This update is specific to virtual school programs for students in grades K-12. 

 

Virtual School Option:

 

After careful consideration and review of last year’s virtual learning programs, the school district has decided to continue offering virtual school programs for students in grades K-12.  Because the age, developmental level, and experience of students varies greatly from elementary, middle and high school the structure of the virtual program has been designed differently to provide supports which align to each level.  

The virtual learning programs produced mixed results for students last year.  Thoughtful consideration for each student’s academic, social and emotional development as well as other personal characteristics should be taken into consideration prior to making a placement in a virtual learning program.   This year’s enrollment into a virtual program will include a planning session with the student, parent and school staff members.   

Families wanting to learn more about a virtual school program for the 2021-22 school year should complete the “2021-22 Virtual Learning Interest Form” .   After the completed form is submitted online, it will be sent to the appropriate school building.  A staff member from the school will then make direct contact with the parent to provide additional information and answer questions.  A date/time for the planning session can be set up at that time.  

Interested families should complete a unique (separate) form for each student by August 10 to ensure that an individualized planning session can be completed before the first day of school. 

Survey: https://forms.gle/LC55ffZtorDimrLv9

 

END OF UPDATE

 

July, 18, 2021 Informational Update:  This document is intended to assist families with planning for the 2021-22 school year.  

 

What will school look like for the 2021-2022 school year?

The district created a normal schedule for school this year.  All students will begin and end their school day at the same time.  Regular classes will occur in math, reading, writing, science, and history as well as art, music, PE, and all other elective classes.  Bus routes will return to normal.   

 

What are the start and end times for the school day this year?

A normal school day schedule will return this year. 

                                                                FULL DAY                                   HALF DAY

SCHOOL                                          A.M.              P.M.                         A.M.      P.M.

HILLSDALE HIGH SCHOOL           8:05            2:50                         8:05         11:00

DAVIS MIDDLE SCHOOL                8:10            3:00                         8:10        11:05

GIER ELEMENTARY                        7:55              2:55                       7:55        10:45

BAILEY EARLY CHILDHOOD          7:50              2:50                      7:50        10:45   

 

Will there be an online/virtual option?

Yes. Virtual instruction will be provided for the high school level students using the online platform of Edgenuity.  This is the same platform that has been in place for several years at the secondary level.  

The district is working on redesigned options for K-8 virtual learning courses.  At these grade levels, the approach moving forward needs to incorporate more synchronous “live” instruction with students and teachers.  Additional information will be provided as these plans are finalized in the coming weeks.     

 

When is the first day of school?

The first day of school will be Tuesday, August 24.  (See the full 2021-22 Calendar in the attachment) 

 

Will there be Open House events before school this year?

Yes.  The schools all used smaller events last year out of necessity because big events were not an option.  But after experiencing the smaller events, there was a lot of positive feedback from families. So, the schools are planning similar small group events and personal appointments for both building tours and classroom visits with the teachers. Each school will contact the families directly with those details. Most events will occur during the week before school, August 16-20. 

 

Will there be after-school programs for tutoring, enrichment clubs and sports teams?

Yes. The academic tutoring services, enrichment clubs and sports will return. 

 

Are facemasks required at school?

No. Face masks will be optional for staff and students during school. 

 

Will students be required to have the COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend school?

No. There will be no requirement for COVID-19 vaccines for students or staff.  Hillsdale Community Schools understands and respects that vaccinations are an individual’s choice. 

 

Will students be separated or cohorted by vaccination status?

No. Vaccination is a personal decision and our students will participate in school under normal conditions.  

 

What about playgrounds, cafeterias, and classrooms? Will students be cohorted or required to social distance?

No. Those health department orders have expired and we are returning to pre-pandemic practices.  

 

Will the schools and buses continue to be cleaned in extra ways again this school year?

Yes.  The schools and buses will continue to be sanitized and disinfected regularly.  The district plans include continued use of hand sanitizer, wipes, and use of sanitizing machines on buses in between bus runs and inside buildings before each day of school.    

 

Will health screenings be conducted by school staff each day before school?

No.  We ask that parents/families assess the health of the children before coming to school or getting on a bus.  Staying home and out of the school building when symptoms of illness are present is a really important step we must all take to ensure we can have school each day.  If a student or staff member develops symptoms of illness while at school, he/she must be sent home.   

 

Will contact tracing continue?

Schools are required to report communicable diseases to the local health department, therefore, positive cases will be reported.  Any directives to individuals involved would come from the local health department.

 

Will Hillsdale Community Schools quarantine students who have been exposed to COVID-19?

No. Any quarantine restrictions will come from the local health department, which depends on your county of residency. Our district will no longer be quarantining exposed individuals.

 

Will students or student athletes be required to test for COVID-19 in order to attend school or participate in athletics?

No. MDHHS and MHSAA lifted all requirements for Covid testing as of June 22, 2021.

 

Who will decide rules about athletics? 

Athletics will follow the rules set forth by the MHSAA.

 

Conclusion  

*This update provides our plans/intentions for the upcoming school year. These strategies may change if new information or requirements of law or lawful order are placed upon the school district.  We will keep you informed on any changes should that occur.

 

END OF UPDATE