Dear LMSD Families,
I hope that you will enjoy a restful Winter Break and look forward to welcoming our students back to school in the new year. As I shared in a prior update, all students (with the exception of identified special needs students whose IEPs require in-person instruction) will attend school virtually the week of Jan. 4-8, 2021. We plan to return to our in-person hybrid model on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
We planned virtual instruction for that first week after break so that anyone who travels over the holidays will be able to comply with Pennsylvania's travel restrictions, which require a 10-day quarantine or negative COVID-19 test for anyone who has reached their 11th birthday and who has traveled out of the state. Please keep these restrictions in mind and follow them to mitigate the risk of bringing COVID-19 into our schools once they reopen.
I also urge you to continue to follow the other health and safety protocols, such as hand-washing, mask-wearing, maintaining physical distance and avoiding gatherings with anyone from outside your household. I know that it's challenging to forego celebrations at this time of year, but consider these statistics from Montgomery County: As of June 26, the chance that you'd interact with someone who was infected with COVID-19 in Montco was 1 in 1875. As of Dec. 16, that chance was 1 in 128. Health officials tell us that not everyone who has the virus has symptoms, but asymptomatic carriers can pass the disease on unknowingly to someone for whom it could have very serious consequences.
When we return after break, Lower Merion School District will be one of the first public school districts in Pennsylvania to take part in a large-scale rapid COVID-19 testing program referred to as "ACE-IT" (Assisting Childhood Education through Increased Testing). This program will allow the District to regularly test asymptomatic staff and identified students in order to reduce the risk of disease spread among our community members. The program will use BinaxNOW tests, which provide results in 15 minutes and are administered using a nasal swab in the front area of the nostril. This testing can be conducted by trained LMSD staff at each school location.
Initially, LMSD plans to conduct two types of testing in two ways:
- WEEKLY ASSURANCE TESTING: The priority usage of the tests will be for the purpose of weekly assurance testing. Our goal is to screen all onsite staff and identified students on a weekly basis. Based upon testing volume and program capacity, we will prioritize programs where social distancing cannot be maintained to the extent recommended, as well as target buildings with higher case incidents and/or outbreaks.
- SYMPTOMATIC TESTING DURING WORK/SCHOOL DAY: The District may conduct testing on staff who present symptoms of COVID-19 while at school or on District property.
We will share additional information about this program in the new year. Until then, enjoy a happy and safe winter break.