Dear LMSD families,
I'm writing to share important updated guidance from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health (MCOPH), our local public health authority, and from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab regarding COVID-19. Please click these links to read the full recommendations from MCOPH and CHOP. We anticipate there will be more guidance or clarifications of current guidance in the near future, as health authorities continue to respond to the rapidly changing landscape of COVID-19. Our District Administration and our Health and Safety Committee will continue to review any new guidance as it is issued.
Here is a summary of the new guidance and how it will be implemented in LMSD:
- Masking: LMSD will continue to require masks in all buildings and on school buses, until cases and hospitalizations decrease.
- Vaccinations and Boosters: LMSD continues to encourage all eligible staff and students to be fully vaccinated and boosted. Vaccines don't completely prevent COVID infections, but they do dramatically decrease the severity of illness and hospitalizations.
- Testing: LMSD will discontinue weekly testing of asymptomatic students and staff (due to vaccination status and/or participation in higher risk activities).
- Due to the widespread nature of COVID and limited resources, the priority for rapid antigen testing will be for symptomatic staff and students. School Nurses will continue to test individuals (with consent) who become ill during the school day at their schools, as well as individuals in the "Mask to Stay" and "Test to Stay" programs described below.
- All other testing will be available at Lower Merion High School cafeteria (park by Kobe Bryant gym) each Tuesday and Thursday (resources permitting) from 3:00-4:30 p.m.
- This includes: voluntary assurance testing for asymptomatic staff, symptomatic students and staff unable to secure testing elsewhere and students participating in higher risk extracurriculars/activities.
- No appointment required.
- Participants must generate and bring their QR code.
- Testing is only available to current students and staff (no friends/family).
- Please note that rapid antigen testing is less sensitive to Omicron. False negatives may occur, especially in the first couple of days of illness.
- Isolation for COVID: LMSD asks all students and staff to isolate at home if they are symptomatic.
- Anyone with a positive COVID test or a probable positive case can return to school 5 days after symptoms begin, as long as they are no longer symptomatic and are fever-free for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medication) AND they can wear a face mask at all times (except during meals) in school and during school activities.
- Individuals who are still symptomatic and/or cannot wear a face mask must complete a 10-day isolation period.
- MCOPH does not require or recommend that individuals be tested prior to returning to work or school. MCOPH dose require that anyone who is tested after their five-day isolation period and tests positive isolate for an additional five days.
- The COVID nurses will provide specific dates of isolation and return to work/school. Please contact your School Nurse or call 610-645-1973 to speak with a member of the COVID team.
- Contact Tracing: LMSD will prioritize contact tracing in areas of greatest risk for transmission, such as cafeteria and higher risk extracurriculars. Due to the very high incidence of infection with the Omicron variant, it is no longer possible for school districts or Health Departments to contact trace as done previously. Although contact tracing is no longer recommended for classrooms or buses, LMSD will continue to contact trace (to the extent possible) where social distancing or masking may not be possible.
- "Mask to Stay" Program: Implementing this program will allow asymptomatic individuals who are close contacts to positive individuals outside of their household (and who would otherwise be required to quarantine) to continue to attend work/school in person if they complete daily screening for symptoms, wear a face mask at all times (except during meals) and consent to/complete testing for COVID between days four and six after exposure.
- Any symptoms during this period require isolation.
- Staff and students who lack booster vaccines (if eligible) or are not vaccinated may be eligible.
- Individuals who have a household exposure, or who have a mask exemption including face shields, are not eligible for this program and must quarantine.
- Our COVID team will assist in the determination of eligibility.
- "Test to Stay" Program: Implementing this program will allow asymptomatic staff who would otherwise be quarantined due to close contact with a COVID-positive individual in their household to continue to attend work.
- Eligible staff members are those who have completed the primary series of COVID vaccine, but have not yet received the booster if eligible.
- Eligible individuals must screen daily for symptoms, wear a mask in school and public settings (except for meals), complete COVID testing each day for 10 days and maintain six feet of distance from others.
- Individuals who cannot comply must complete the standard quarantine
The above recommendations are subject to change by the MCOPH and will continue to be reviewed by LMSD. We fully understand that at times it has been challenging to keep up with changing guidance. As our medical community's knowledge and understanding of the virus has evolved, and as the pandemic has progressed, so have our mitigation strategies. We will do our best to respond to questions, incorporate MCOPH recommendations and continue to focus on providing the most positive in-person school environment possible.
Terry Quinlan MEd, MA, RN, CSN
Lead Supervisor of School Health and Student Safety