Mammoth Unified School District High School and Middle School will go to distance learning only starting Monday, Sept. 20 for at least two weeks due to high Covid transmission cases and quarantines, said Superintendent Jennifer Wildman in a letter to parents on Friday afternoon, Sept. 17.
The Elementary School will remain open at this time, she said, because the positive cases in the school and the quarantine numbers are manageable.
Wildman told the Times the decision was a hard one because the district has worked hard to keep all schools open to in person learning, despite daily new cases which have triggered quarantines of hundreds of students (some students and staff have gotten sick but there have been no fatalities of student or staff) since the schools opened in August to in-person learning. However, a large number of positive tests came back on Friday, including some "key staff members," triggering the need to close the schools until positive case numbers decline to a level that the district can manage in-person teaching again.
A formal 'Health Order' from the Mono County Department of Public Health regarding the closure is expected to be released soon, she said. The Times will run the text of the Order as soon as it is available and will do a full story on this issue in the upcoming issue of the Times.
Wildman sent a letter to all parents in the district Friday afternoon explaining why the district made the decision. Here it is:
From: Mammoth Unified School District Superintendent Jennifer Wildman
Date: Friday, Sep 17, 1:50 p.m.
Dear Parents, Students and Staff,
I am sorry to say that we have reached a level of COVID exposure and positive COVID cases that may require the district to take more restrictive actions. Because of a a high level of exposure, we are also experiencing staffing shortages related to COVID that affects our ability to keep all of our schools open at this time. When administrators, teachers and staff have to quarantine, we cannot safely staff all of our classrooms and programs.
As of 1:30 p.m this afternoon, we are awaiting a Public Health order with a directive which would require us to close both Mammoth Middle School and Mammoth High School. The potential closure is for the next two weeks, from Monday, September 20th to Friday, October 1st. This is pending the public health order.
Because of the specifics of this situation MES is not currently as affected by COVID, so Mammoth Elementary School will be able to remain open at this time as long as there are no increased exposures or positive cases. We will re-evaluate the situation every 24 hours and keep you posted.
Follow-up communication including the exact dates of the school closures and an independent study plan will be forthcoming from each school over the weekend.
Staff will be required to take and submit a COVID test on Mondays, September 20th and 27th.
Students should monitor for symptoms, be diligent wearing masks and are encouraged to test on Wednesday, September 22nd. Free testing is available at OptumServe between the hours of 11 am-7 pm at the Community Center on 1000 Forest Trail. (They typically take a lunch break from 3-4 pm) Testing consists of a simple nasal swab.
WALK INS ARE WELCOME.
All local PCR tests from today's testing will be validated by public health. Therefore, you do not need to submit results unless asked.
Obviously, this is difficult news that will affect our staff, students and parents. Decisions like these involve a great deal of contemplation and collaboration with Public Health. We do not take school closures lightly. When confirmed, we will be closing schools out of an abundance of caution in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19. If you have any questions, please call or email your school principal or office.
Please stay tuned for more information once we hear more from Mono County Public Health regarding the health directive. Thank you for your continued patience and support.