Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this message today to Westport families:
As an interim follow-up to the message yesterday, I would like to share some additional updates regarding recent changes in isolation, quarantine and contact tracing guidelines, as well as an opportunity for COVID-19 testing for students and families this Monday.
As previously announced, Monday (January 3) will be a “staff only” day, as the winter break will be extended 1 day. Students are expected to return Tuesday.
Maintaining the health and safety of our students and staff, while keeping our students in school and engaged in all of their programs, remains our priority.
Possible COVID-19 Testing Clinic for Students Monday, January 3
In an effort to keep positive student cases out of our schools we are in the planning stages with Progressive Diagnostics, our partner with our in-school weekly testing program. Initial plans are being made to host a testing clinic for Westport Public School students and families this Monday. All family members will have the opportunity to be tested, and insurance will be billed.
The initial plan is to provide space in our Staples High School fieldhouse. Appointments will be scheduled by Progressive through an on-line scheduler. The link to schedule an appointment will be provided through a follow-up communication once the details have been finalized.
This is in the planning stages, but we wanted to make our students and families aware of this possibility given the lack of testing options in the region.
The Westport Public Schools have already offered several vaccination clinics for staff and students, in the Staples High School fieldhouse.
Changes in Isolation Guidelines
Last night, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) notified all superintendents that the state has adopted changes to the isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing guidelines.
Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19:
should isolate at home for at least 5 days, or longer if symptoms develop and persist,
wear a mask for the subsequent 5 days at all times when around others,
return to school on or after day 6 if symptoms have resolved, and they have been fever free for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medication.
This is a change from the previous isolation period of 10 days.
If your child has tested positive for COVID-19 on or before December 29, they can return to school on January 4 if they are symptom-free. Students who have tested positive after December 29 should remain home and isolate for 5 days and return to school on Day 6 if symptom free.
Contact Tracing and Quarantine Practices
Individual contact tracing is less effective when community transmission is high. This process further taxes our nurse and health staff, and our building administrators, to a point that it becomes more challenging to attend to the needs of the students currently in school.
Connecticut DPH has determined that routine contact tracing within the school buildings and during supervised activities can be discontinued. Our priority will be early identification of positive cases and assuring appropriate isolation.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students and staff (defined has having only 1 dose of a 2-dose vaccine, or being within 2 weeks of the final dose) experiencing a high risk exposure incident outside of school (athletic event, sleepover, other similar activities) will:
Vaccinated school staff and students with an exposure outside of school may:
continue with in-person learning,
test with either an at home or lab test on day 5, and
wear a mask at all times.
Support for Students in Isolation or Quarantine
Part of the work over the vacation period and on Monday will be to provide as many supports for students in isolation or quarantine as possible. More information will be forthcoming at the end of the day on Monday on this effort.
Notifications of Positive Cases
When a positive case is identified, elementary classroom notifications will be made as well as grade level and school notifications. As the numbers of cases remains high, we will continue to report district numbers daily and maintain the district dashboard. This work is very demanding, and might not be entirely accurate at a given moment. We ask for your patience, and reiterate that the district will continue full transparency as we have done this entire pandemic. Any delay is a matter of the human resources necessary to maintain our data.
Not only is universal masking still part of the governor’s Executive Order, but an increased emphasis on mask wearing will be implemented on our return on January 4. Staff and students will be required to wear face masks at all times when in the presence of staff and students.
The provision for teachers to remove masks when teaching from the front of the classroom will be suspended until further notice from the Superintendent’s office.
Reminders will be provided for all students to reinforce proper mask wearing.
There is significant “mask fatigue” in our community and our schools. Faculty, staff, and administrators are doing, and will continue to do their best to ensure proper mask wearing among our student population.
DPH has reinstated the use of masks for all athletes to continuously wear masks during athletic competitions.
In addition to our supply of KN95 masks for staff, the district anticipates a shipment of N95 masks from the state for staff use.
De-densification in the lunchroom
All efforts will be made to provide additional spacing between students while at lunch at all levels.
This task is very challenging, yet our school-based teams will continue to put thought into how to further “de-densify” our lunch settings.
We encourage all families that have not already done so, to get vaccinations and boosters 6 months after the last vaccinations of Pfizer and Moderna and 2 months after J & J vaccine It is anticipated that the FDA will authorize boosters for 12-15 year-olds this week.
During this time of high transmission it is more important than ever, whether vaccinated, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, to stay home when ill. Even mild symptoms such as headache, fatigue and nasal congestion can be signs of COVID-19. Stay home, test for COVID-19 with either an at-home or lab test, and remain home until you are symptom free for at least 24 hours.
You can anticipate an additional update by the end of the weekend. In the interim, please stay healthy and rest assured that the district is working continuously on maintaining the health and safety of our students and staff, while keeping our students in school and engaged in all of their programs.