Dear UCF Community,
During last night’s School Board Work Session, Dr. Sulieman presented the most recent COVID-19 transmission rates and metrics - (See the latest report here). We are tracking the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in our region. Unfortunately, they are on the rise. These are the important takeaways from the report:
- Chester County positivity rates increased from 4.3% to 5.1%;
- Chester County has seen a weekly increase in incidence rate per 100,000 from 65.9 to 84.9;
- UCF municipalities have seen an increase in incidents from 17 to 24;
- Projected incidence rates per 100,000 - in the coming weeks - show Chester County cases to continue to rise above 100.
With an incident rate of 84.9 per 100,000 - we have crossed over into the “very high” community transmission level according to the Chester County Health Department (CCHD) metrics. However, while the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to increase, we have not seen any linked transmission in our schools. Also, the CCHD and CHOP have indicated that it does not appear that schools are contributing to the spread of COVID-19. As a result, the CCHD has revised its guidance regarding when to move to all remote learning.
The new guidelines state that a district should be in the very high community transmission level for three consecutive weeks when making a transition to remote learning. This is a change from the two weeks that was originally recommended. This week would be considered week one with metrics over the threshold and we will watch the numbers closely over the next two weeks.
Based on this new guidance - assuming the numbers continue to increase over the next two weeks - last night I recommended to the Board that we transition Patton Middle School and Unionville High School to remote instruction on November 30. If the numbers fall below the very high community transmission threshold - the date could be later. If and when we do return to remote instruction, we have been advised by the CCHD to do so in a reverse order phased manner - meaning that secondary would transition back first followed by elementary.
To date we have only had one positive case at our elementary schools since September 8. Right now, my recommendation is to keep elementary in a hybrid model for as long as possible - while it is still considered safe. Our elementary instructional model will be discussed at the December 7 Board Meeting.
While this gives us a bit more time in our hybrid instructional model than originally expected - we cannot let our guard down. Transmission of COVID-19 within our schools would also cause us to transition to remote learning sooner. While we have had positive cases, all have been isolated cases and there has been no transmission within our schools, on our sports teams, or on school grounds. This is due in part to our layered mitigation efforts that we have in place as well as our staff and students who are doing what they are supposed to - completing the daily home screening, staying home when they do not feel well, wearing a mask and social distancing. I urge our families to continue to be vigilant, use good judgment and follow our Health and Safety plan. Doing this is what will keep us open for as long as possible while it is still safe.
Please know, our priority throughout this entire process is the health and safety of our students and staff. If we can do so safely, and it is allowable in the CCHD guidelines, we will continue to provide in-person instruction.
The updated Chester County Health Department guidance recommends schools consider several factors when deciding to move to a completely virtual learning model or to continue with in-person learning. UCFSD will consider the following when determining in-person or online learning:
1. Guidance of County and State Officials: UCFSD will continue to follow the guidance of Chester County Department of Health, CHOP, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Education when determining whether or not staff and students should attend in-person or remotely.
2. Chester County Health Department COVID-19 Metrics: For both the county as a whole and within its local communities, the CCHD provides school districts with daily updates on COVID-19 cases and positivity rates. In addition, the CCHD provides the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by age group and within a school district.
3. Rates of linked transmission in CCIU programs and schools: Through COVID-19 reporting and contact tracing, the CCHD and UCFSD can determine if a positive case is the result of an outbreak in a school or a single case contracted outside of the school and not affecting other students or school personnel. Linked transmission or an outbreak at a school occurs when two or more cases of COVID-19 are the result of individuals coming into contact with one another at school.
4. Number of staff available to keep buildings open: As the rate of transmission spreads, so may the number of staff required to quarantine. This may impact our ability to continue in-person learning.