October 14, 2020
Fairfield Parents, Students, and Community Members,
As you know, everyone here at the school, in collaboration with the county health department, is working very hard to keep our students in school, our athletic teams competing, and our facility operating effectively K – 12. Every day seems to bring a new challenge, but we have thus far effectively navigated most of the difficulties that have come with opening and in-person learning, which has been our primary goal. We have also successfully avoided a partial or whole school shut down due to COVID up to this point.
As we move further into the fall, the number of COVID cases continues to rise in Montana, including Teton County. A growing number of schools in the state and several in our area have had to revert to distance learning due to exposure to infected students or staff, consequently shutting down in-person learning and extra-curricular competition. Even temporary shut downs create an enormous burden on teachers and students for learning, as well as parents who work and do not have daycare or the ability to stay home and facilitate their children’s education. Because of this, we feel we have to do everything we can to minimize a COVID exposure within the school, and to accomplish this, we need your help and cooperation.
If your child becomes ill, please keep them home until they are symptom free for at least 24 hours, especially for temperature and deep cough and the other major symptoms associated specifically with COVID. There are a lot of other illnesses that students contract every year, so we have to work through those as well. If there has not been a defined close contact with a COVID case, it is likely a common illness and they will be back in school after a short time.
If you and/or your child have had an exposure or even potential exposure, please keep your child home and call county health and/or the school until appropriate contact tracing can happen and they are cleared to return. It is possible a COVID test will be requested and quarantine time can vary, depending on the situation. Each individual case is considered carefully in cooperation and communication between the school, county health and the families involved, while observing and honoring all personal FERPA and HIPPA rights to privacy.
If you are planning to travel, particularly out of state, we ask that you please contact the school and communicate so we can plan together for school work that might be missed and the possible need for a school supplied Chromebook or iPad. In consideration for the safety for all of our students and staff upon return, we would also appreciate the understanding that we need to measure the potential risk with your destination and activity for its possible impact on our entire school community.
With the holidays coming up and other events that might necessitate your family to travel, we would like to work with you to ensure your child’s educational needs are met, as well as preserving the safety and operation of the rest of the school upon return to avoid an unintentional exposure and school closure. If you are going to a destination with community spread or one where contact tracing would be difficult or impossible, we would like you to please work with us and consider the potential risk for the other students and our entire school. Arrangements can easily be made for a short quarantine period that involves individual students to protect the student body and staff. Teachers will appreciate the consideration and will work out a temporary plan for distance learning and can even accommodate attending class live digitally. We do not penalize for absences that are precautionary or necessary and simply want to do what’s best for the whole school and community.
We have a good plan and technology to work through a school shut down if necessary, but again, our first goal is to do what we can to prevent that from happening. Education for the majority is much more effective when students are on campus, especially for grades K – 6. Many families cannot afford to take time off if their children are required to stay home.
Extra-curricular activities play a very big part of mental health for students and for many it is a major reason for attending school in person. We are navigating the difficulties associated with health and safety for those activities, while at the same time keeping the rest of the school safe. Separation, cohorts, masks, limited fans, good communication and community cooperation that works to protect the entire school whenever possible is what will allow us to continue to stay in school, keep participating, and be successful.
Education this year, along with all the many things associated with school, is going to continue to be difficult and will require difficult decisions that have to be made in the best interest and safety for the entire school. There is no experience to draw from and there are no single rules that fit every circumstance. We will get through this together, and if we cooperate, communicate and all sacrifice a little for the best interest of the whole, we will do so with success.