I write with several updates in anticipation of school beginning next week. We are very excited to
welcome back our students, and want to be sure our families are aware of the protocols regarding COVID-19.
First, at a special meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on August 24, 2021, the Board voted to declare “exigent circumstances” pursuant to the Student Learning Time (SLT) regulations, and authorized the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to require masks for public school students (age 5 and above) and staff in all grades regardless of vaccination status through at least October 1, 2021. Details are as follows:
Effective immediately, public school students ages 5 and above and staff in all grades are required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Masks are not required when outdoors, when eating or drinking, or during mask breaks.
Students and staff who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons are exempted from the requirement.
Mask breaks will occur throughout the day at all three schools.
Masks should be provided by the student/family, but disposable masks will be available for students who need them.
By federal public health order, all students and staff are required to wear a mask on school buses.
Regarding our preschool students, the School Committee voted to institute a mask mandate for our preschool students as well. Therefore, all students should be prepared to wear a mask during the school day.
We understand that not all of our families are in support of this mandate; however, as it is a requirement of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, all students must comply in the absence of medical documentation. We also understand that there is a level of anxiety regarding mask wearing for some of our students. Please know that the administration, nurses and counselors at each building are prepared to work with you and your child to ensure that they feel as comfortable as possible in school while wearing a mask. Parents will be notified should your child refuse to wear his/her mask, and discipline will be a last resort after other steps have been taken. More serious disciplinary measures may occur for defiant non-compliance.
Secondly, testing protocols have been revised by the Department of Elementary and Secondary
Education. I have included some of the highlights below:
A new “Test and Stay” program will allow asymptomatic close contacts to remain in school and participate in sports and extracurriculars so long as they take a rapid antigen test daily, wear a mask, and follow other guidelines. If an individual or family chooses not to participate, a close contact will need to quarantine at home for at least 7 days from the point of exposure.
The list of close contacts who do not need to participate in testing and quarantine protocols has been updated to include individuals on school buses, when students are masked with windows open, regardless of distancing. In addition, the following groups continue to be exempt from testing and quarantine: asymptomatic, vaccinated close contacts; classroom close contacts spaced at least three feet apart while students are masked; and individuals who have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
Districts and schools may continue to test students with mild symptoms with BinaxNOW tests. So long as these tests are negative, individuals with mild symptoms should remain in school.
Weekly COVID pooled testing remains strongly recommended for unvaccinated individuals. Vaccinated individuals may still participate at their discretion; however, this is not recommended. Please note: DESE has contracted with a new service provider to conduct pooled testing. For this reason, pooled testing will most likely not occur until the end of September, and families will need to provide consent. We will be sure to keep you updated!
As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our administrators, nurses or me. We look forward to seeing everyone soon!
Cheryl A. Clarke, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools