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Medical Advisory Board (MAB) Frequently Asked Questions

How does the MAB approach its work? 
The MAB has been meeting and communicating as a group weekly since its August formation. The MAB approaches each meeting with a dashboard review of COVID data for our state, region, county, and district. Following this review, each MAB member is asked if they feel that it is medically safe for the continuation of in-person learning based on the dashboard data reviewed and other information District leaders share. This has generated healthy discussion as a board each week about disease presence and prevalence in our schools and the success of our ongoing mitigation strategies. 

It seems the metrics keep shifting week to week. Why has the MAB not taken a stronger stance as the numbers have gotten so much worse? Aren’ t we in the “red zone”?
The numbers for our state have, unfortunately, gotten worse. This has been central to our discussions. We have been reassured by the relative stability of our dashboard numbers as a district. We have thoroughly reviewed and discussed the CDC guidance, the Harvard Global Health paper, and other resources on our website as well as other materials brought forward by MAB members. We also applaud the district’s proactive approach to disease risk mitigation including:

  • Masking of students and staff

  • Cohort models in Elementary and Middle School

  • Several protocols related to transportation

  • Physical separation

  • Encouragement of frequent hand-washing

  • Increased ventilation of outside air

  • Implementation of air ionization system for all classrooms and spaces where students are present  

  • A robust contact tracing program with 14-day Quarantine of students and staff who meet the CDC guideline 15 minute/6 feet criteria for close contact exposure

The above measures have given stability to our student case counts allowing Medical Advisory Board members to be more tolerant of percent positivity and case count/100K numbers drifting upward. To date, the net effect of the rising cases in our community on our district numbers has been somewhat muted relative to other districts and regions. We continue to emphasize the mitigation efforts of masking, hand washing and distancing. 

Are you just changing the goalposts each week to justify in person learning? Will we ever see transitions to temporary virtual learning?
Our weekly discussions have been productive in sparking individual and group thinking around “lines in the sand,” when considering a shift to temporary virtual learning. Eventually, these conversations resulted in a 20% absence metric, which admittedly is not peer reviewed or based on others’ guidelines or recommendations. However, Elmbrook has been wise to take a medical advisory board approach to allow 5 subject matter experts the opportunity to weigh in weekly on what they think the safest approach should be moving forward. Opinions have evolved over time, as more data and information becomes available, eventually leading to a 3-day rolling average rate of 20% absence by school.

The reality the Medical Advisory Board confronts each week is that there is no firm research study in this area to reference for full guidance. The MAB uses the best available evidence each week to offer the medically safest option to move forward. In the absence of peer-reviewed research in this area the MAB is evolving in our own understanding as we consider questions such as:

  • Are students safer at school or safer at home?

  • What is the transmission of disease between students/staff within a class cohort?

How are Medical Advisory Board recommendations considered?
Recommendations by the Medical Advisory Board are focused primarily on the likelihood of disease transmission considerations on topics ranging from co-curricular activities to temporary shifts to in-person learning. 

  • Recommendations that guide District Operations are deployed by the District Leadership team and communicated to those impacted. 

  • Recommendations that would impact the District’s approach to in-person learning are forwarded to the District’s Governance Team (Board President, Board Vice President, Superintendent) for consideration and approval. When a school reaches a recommended threshold, the Governance Team evaluates all information including disease data and the MAB recommendation, student and staff absences, school operations (transportation, food service), and the forecasted impact of shifting to temporary virtual learning, before making a decision. 

The Medical Advisory Board is committed to the continued analysis of the science and data, so that future recommendations are based on the most current and relevant information. We encourage families to use these recommendations as one source of input when making learning choice decisions each quarter.