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All Instruction Now Online Though Dec. 4

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Dear DTSD Families,

I hope that you are preparing for a restful Thanksgiving – despite the holiday being very different from the traditional celebration.

This message is to inform you that the district will remain in the current on-line instructional model through December 4  in response to the ongoing and increasing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We will monitor our community (Hershey/Hummelstown) and district metrics throughout next week and will make a decision no later than next Friday, December 4, regarding the ability to conduct classes in some or all our buildings on Monday, December 7. 

I understand the school schedule has a direct and substantial impact on your family schedule and that is never overlooked.  We weigh many factors in decision making and have been consistent in relying on public health officials to guide our decision making; that remains the case. Protecting the health and safety of our students and staff is ultimately the most important consideration.

By way of additional background: shortly before the Thanksgiving recess, the PA Department of Health (DOH) and the PA Department of Education (DOE) provided updated guidance for the operation of pre-K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Included in these guidelines is the repeated recommendation that schools in counties identified as having substantial community spread for two or more weeks rely on online instruction. As you may know, Dauphin County’s infection metrics have shown the county has been experiencing substantial community spread for some time now.  Our district was able to remain in a hybrid instructional model because our local and school-related numbers were lower than those at the county level.  However, when that changed earlier this month, we pivoted to use our virtual instructional tools.

We indicated at that time we would continue to monitor these metrics and make a determination closer to the planned return to school following the Thanksgiving recess. Unfortunately, conditions have not improved in our community (Hershey/Hummelstown zip codes) as both the incident rate and the percent positivity rates are well above the thresholds recommended by the DOH . At this time, both case counts and percent positivity remain well above the established thresholds of 100 cases/100K residents and >10% positivity (as of 11/25/20, the 17033 and 17036 zip codes were at 230.1/100K and 12.03% positivity). Although we are experiencing an increase in community spread, the data provided to us is indicating a slight decline in the number of active positive cases in our schools.  Although the number of active positive cases with respect to the number of students and staff across our campus remains relatively low, it still remains a definite concern.

 In order for the district to continue to make informed decisions with the most accurate data possible, it is critical that families notify the school nurse any time a student has a positive COVID-19 test, is diagnosed as presumed positive, or has been identified as a close contact - even while we are operating in a virtual learning mode.

As we have throughout this trying time, the district will continue to communicate with you and our teachers will continue their exceptional work in delivering excellent education. We ask that you please continue to communicate with the school nurse if your child tests positive, is awaiting a test result, or is a close contact so the counts per building can remain current.  I remain extremely appreciative of the untiring work of our entire staff as well as the support our families and the community as a whole has shown for our students.

With Trojan Pride,

Joe McFarland, Superintendent

•  Related Link

     PA Department of Health COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard