January 1, 2022

Dear Parents,

I hope each of you had a blessed Christmas filled with endless joy and blessings.

At Sts. Joseph and John School, we recognize the importance of in-person learning for the cognitive, social, and emotional development of our students, and believe that the best place for kids is in the classroom learning with their peers. Since August, we have been able to have a “normal” school year with COVID-19 cases being kept to a minimum.  Our SJJ community has done a fantastic job in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, working hard each day to keep our students safe and in school for this we thank you and we continue to pray daily for the health of all our faculty, staff, students and families.

As we have experienced during the past two years, things shift quickly with COVID-19. Currently, we are faced with a new variant, Omicron, which is proving to be more contagious than previous variants. Healthcare professionals are saying this variant is spreading rapidly through Ohio and is expected to become the dominant variant within the coming weeks.

While watching the news, reading articles, speaking with healthcare professionals and meeting with the Diocese of Cleveland, we are reminded of the severity of our current situation. We have all seen and heard, the best protection against developing severe illness from COVID-19, for both school-aged children and adults, remains getting vaccinated. While younger, school-aged children continue to get vaccinated, it is critical that we keep following protocols to protect our SJJ families at school and at home.

Health experts around Ohio previously recommended schools have masking policies until more students are vaccinated and that remains their recommendation as students return to school next week.  This is most urgent now because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.  Some facts being presented are that masks are effective at slowing the spread of this virus. We all know the best way to keep our students in school is to slow the spread of the virus. The best ways to slow the spread of the virus are to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

With Omicron spreading quickly, we need everyone’s help to make it through the coming weeks while remaining in school. Each member of the Board of Trustees was polled and all 10 members voted yes on the decision to temporarily enforce a mask mandate at SJJ school.

Please help us by adhering to a mask mandate for our faculty, staff and students when they return to school on January 4. We will reevaluate around February 4, 2022 and communicate if adjustments are needed once the surge goes down. No mask exemptions will be accepted unless signed by a pediatrician.  I know that this decision has differing views that sometimes become very divisive. However, at the end of the day, our goal as Catholics is to care for one another, protect one another and pray for one another.  It is our mission to keep our students in school.  The best way to do this is to do our part in slowing the spread of the virus.

Dr. Ryba, Superintendent of Strongsville, recently shared these statistics with his families that I thought I’d share with you. Based on the most recent data available, over the past 3 weeks, the 7-day case count in Cuyahoga County has gone from 5,584 to 18,453 and the positivity rate has gone from 17.7% to 35.7%.  This puts Cuyahoga County as the county with the highest case count per 100K (click here) in the state.  Prediction models created by Case Western Reserve University (click here) also show this surge continuing to increase until it peaks during the first week of January.  In the city of Strongsville over this same period of time, the 14-day case count has gone from 340 to 845.  Although still a significant increase in cases, the good news is that our city has a high vaccination rate, which has likely helped in seeing reduced COVID cases rates in our area.

The best ways to slow the spread of the virus are to get vaccinated, wear a mask, and continue to pray for the health and safety of one another.

Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing our students on Tuesday!  May all the blessings of the Lord be yours in abundance in this coming year!

In service of youth,

Joseph M. Akosi