MUSD/Public Health FAQ on School Closures

MUSD/PUBLIC HEALTH SCHOOL CLOSURE FAQ
See the Mono County Public Health Order Closing Schools HERE

Did Public Health "order" the school closures?
No. On Friday, MUSD Superintendent, Health coordinator and Site Administrators met with the Mono County Public Health Officer, Public Health Director, Deputy Director and the entire COVID Team to identify the root cause of spiraling COVID cases in MUSD. This has been identified as an official outbreak at our schools and we worked together about how to address the health and safety of all students at this time. The group explored several options with the goal to keep as many kids in school as possible while supporting ongoing learning for as many as possible.

With over 300 students and staff headed for an at-home quarantine, we had no choice but to issue the temporary closure. Staffing during this kind of an outbreak would have left us at unsafe levels. In-person contact is being limited in order to prevent the spread of COVID. While the public health department issued the order to support the school district which made the ultimate decision of how to address this outbreak.
 
Why isn’t MUSD following CDC guidelines?
The CDC is a national “umbrella” organization. MUSD must follow the CA Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines and local Public Health directives.
 
Are we quarantining more strictly than the CDPH guidance?
Most of the time, no. Mono County and in particular, the town of Mammoth Lakes is very different than other communities. We follow CDPH guidance. However, we do have to follow specific guidance directly related to the unique circumstances of each case. We receive individual case guidance from the CDPH and/or local Public Health.

What is a modified quarantine?
Modified quarantines were developed by the CDPH this summer before the Delta variant became the prominent COVID strain in California. School districts can place some students in specific circumstances on a modified quarantine which means students can come to class, but not participate in any other activities.  See CDPH K-12 Guidance for more information.

Why can't we let unvaccinated students and staff stay home on quarantine and let everyone who is vaccinated stay at school?
We wish it was that simple. This is not a "one-size fits all" situation. Please read this section carefully.
  • For most unvaccinated persons who have had close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, CDPH recommends the exposed person get tested and self-quarantine at home.
  • Each situation is treated individually and many factors are considered. Most of the time in most places and circumstances, vaccinated persons are not put on an in-home quarantine. However, we are a school district, and we are not like most places. There are some factors which make a more restricted quarantine a critical tool to stop the spread of COVID and keep schools open.
  • Vaccinated persons have been placed on a modified quarantine whenever possible, meaning they can stay at school but can not participate in any out-of-school activities.
    • Modified quarantines are ineffective against the Delta variant and 
    • Modified quarantines are quite ineffective in secondary schools where students change classes each hour. Middle and High school students have contact with hundreds of people each day.
    • CDPH is moving away from modified quarantines because they are not working.
  • Vaccinated persons who were exposed to COVID in an unusual circumstance may be quarantined at home, such as:
    • A lengthy or intense unmasked COVID exposure
    • A small enclosed space
    • An unventilated area such as a small room with no windows or car 
    • Over a long period of time or repeatedly
    • A congregation of unvaccinated persons
    • When a family member or member of the household is sick with COVID
  • Vaccinated persons who were already on a modified quarantine and are part of an Outbreak (3 or more related cases) are subject to at-home quarantine.
  • Many vaccinated persons in our schools are COVID positive and must isolate at home, even though they have been vaccinated.
    • 1/3 of all cases are break-through cases in vaccinated children and adults
  • 94% of our staff is vaccinated. About 65% of our students ages 12 and up. TK through 6th grade students under 12 can not be vaccinated. Students over 12 must have parent permission to become vaccinated. That means, about 3/5 of our school population is vaccinated.
  • All cases are confidential. We cannot divulge the details of each case in order to explain why one case is different than the next.
What are the staffing shortages that contributed to the need for school closures?
We do not have enough staff on a day-to-day basis. There is a nation-wide substitute teacher shortage , especially in rural districts. (We are working on the local sub shortage!) Also, there is no such thing as a sub for classified staff and administrators. When multiple teachers, administrators and staff are affected, we cannot safely cover for classes and school operations.
 
Is it possible that the closures of MMS and MHS will be longer than 2 weeks?
No. Students and staff should COVID test before returning to school on Monday, October 4th. After testing, COVID positive students and staff will be excluded the following week and therefore will not cause a school outbreak.
 
Is it possible that the school closures will cause other things in town to shut down?
No. This is a school-specific outbreak. That is why MES is still open.

While contact tracing is confidential and we cannot relate all of the details of each COVID case, please note that this school-related outbreak has been traced directly to the Labor Day holiday and some group events (for example: parties, picnics, weddings, festivals, etc…), where unvaccinated and vaccinated students and adults congregated unmasked. A few of the cases we currently have were caused by someone who was symptomatic and came to school or a school event anyway.

Is it possible that the school closures will happen again?
Yes. We all need to work together to prevent COVID from spreading at our schools. Please help us by following the health guidance. Wear your mask. Avoid large groups in public. Stay home when sick. Get tested. Get vaccinated!
 
Stay tuned for more information coming today regarding an Emergency Outbreak Response from CDPH
 
Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding. We hope that helps to answer some of your questions. 
 
MUSD/Public Health PANEL DISCUSSION on School Closures FOR PARENTS
Wednesday at 6pm on Zoom
Please send your questions in advance to jwildman@mammothusd.org 
with the subject line "Questions about school closures"

School Board meetings
Special Meeting Wednesday 7am @ https://us06web.zoom.us/j/ 
Regular Meeting Thursday 6pm @ https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82011953019?pwd=a1V2d2JheXhZeWE2NEVpVCtISExQUT09