Letter from Dr. Williams About Health and Safety Plan Recommendation
January 7, 2022
Dear York Suburban Families and Staff,
School districts have a statutory obligation to review their health and safety plans within six-month periods. For York Suburban, that means we must do so by February. Therefore, the Administration will be recommending some revisions to our current Health and Safety Plan.
The current plan permits optional masking six weeks following the availability of vaccines for students aged 5-11. As a result, masking became optional on December 11, 2021. At that time, COVID-19 cases rose in York County but only marginally. Later in the month of December, however, cases began to climb dramatically:
Until recently, we had a manageable number of cases in our schools and enough staff to support our students when county-wide case levels hovered around 400 on a seven-day average. Things became more tenuous as of December 20, 2021, and staff availability is now reaching a critical breaking point.
Yesterday, for example, there were 23 unfilled teaching vacancies, and principals found creative ways to keep schools running. (There were a total of 38 absences, 7 of which did not require a substitute. Of the remaining 31 positions, 8 of them were filled with substitutes.) Of course, staff may be absent for a host of reasons, but COVID-related absences are increasing dramatically.
Therefore, during Monday evening’s meeting of the Board of School Directors, I will be asking the Board to approve modifications to the Health and Safety Plan to require universal masking until the seven-day rolling average of new cases in York County drops below 400 for seven consecutive days, as per data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. If/when cases fall below 400 and we return to optional masking, we would reinstitute universal masking should the metric again rise above 400 for a period of seven consecutive days.
The metric of 400 new cases was chosen as the threshold because it aligns with the mid-December environment we experienced while masking was optional. As mentioned earlier, we were able to more effectively manage staff absences when York County had new case counts of 400 or lower.
I know that this recommendation will receive mixed reviews. Some will think it does not go far enough; some will think it goes too far. And others will think that if we institute a mask mandate, N95 masks should be required. I believe the recommendation we will be making Monday provides us the greatest opportunity to continue in-person learning with fewer shifts to virtual instruction.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we try to prioritize in-person instruction.
Timothy P. Williams, Ed. D.