Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice says:
It appears that we will have enough staffing to welcome students back [today]. There is a significant shortage of substitute teachers so covering classes of absent teachers will be a challenge. Principals will work collaboratively to ensure sufficient coverage of classrooms.
The bus driver roster is thin. At the present moment there are enough drivers to transport students. However, there is the possibility of combining more routes to cover all student pickups and drop offs.
As we did at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, we ask parents to transport their child when possible. This will thin out the number of riders and make runs more efficient. However, rest assured that we will continue to run our routes. Students will only be permitted to ride on their own buses. The opportunity to ride on another bus has been suspended for the time being. We ask for your patience
State Provided Testing Kits
5,040 iHealth COVID tests (reserved for students) and 864 Flow Flex COVID tests (reserved for staff) will be ready for pickup [today] in Phase I of the shipment of test kits. The purpose of these tests is to identify positive cases in advance so that we can keep as many positive cases out of our schools as possible.
The tests will be prioritized, and used to screen students and staff in the following cases:
Symptomatic students and staff
Students and staff who experienced a direct exposure
Students and staff in a setting with multiple positive cases (i.e. one classroom with multiple cases)
The district will have a truck ready for pickup at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. Town leaders have been instrumental in supporting our efforts, and we are most appreciative of this partnership. Details on distribution of test kits will be forthcoming.
In an effort to maximize spacing during lunch, each school will do their best, within their footprint and the spaces available, to further spread students out during lunch. Although the plexiglass shields have shown little in prevention of virus spread, feedback from the schools indicates that students are more likely to stay in their space during lunch when the shields are on the tables. This is more of behavioral intervention, but one that should be most helpful in establishing and maintaining spacing during lunch. As a result, the plexiglass shields will be returning to lunch settings for all schools.
Student Performances and Concerts
Student performances and concerts that were scheduled over the next couple of weeks will be postponed yet again. Look for more information from your building principal on the scheduling of performances and concerts.
In an effort to to maximize the use of masking, all students will continue the wearing of masks outside for recess at the K-8 level until further notice. Once rates decline, this provision will be removed. Mask breaks will be handled at the school level, but the continued use of masks will be expected, including during recess, until further notice.
After School Programs
Secondary level ( CMS, BMS, SHS) afterschool programs (clubs, sports, etc,) will continue at the present moment. Each club, activity, or sport will be treated individually and meetings/games/practices will be suspended on a case by case basis after consultation with our Supervisor of Health Services.
All elementary after- or before-school programming will be suspended for the current week. A reassessment will be done at the end of this week and further information will be provided to parents at that point in time. This includes Continuing Education programs for elementary students.
Just before the break I notified the community that visitors will not be allowed in our schools through January 7. A reassessment of this provision has been done and visitors will continue to be prohibited from our school buildings through the end of this month. Parent meetings with faculty and administrators will be done virtually for the month of January.
Staples High School Mid-Term Exams
Modifications are being made to the mid term exams at Staples. These modifications include significantly reducing the weighting of the exam on a student’s grade, and expanding the time for making up an exam for a student in isolation, quarantine or symptomatic. The Staples administration will provide further details to students and families regarding the changes to the mid term exams.,
Supports for Students In Isolation, Quarantine, or Symptomatic
Students who have tested positive or who are in quarantine will not be able to access in-person learning for approximately five days given the new guidelines. Additionally, any students exhibiting COVID symptoms will be advised to stay home from school. For this reason, we are in the process of revisiting the supports we provide to students who cannot access in-person learning. There are currently practices in place, including a tutoring model for our elementary students, and extra help sessions for middle and high school students, who cannot access in-person learning for the reasons above.
We will monitor our numbers over the next few days and determine if there is a need to increase the range of supports for students who cannot access in-person instruction. The one benefit with the new guidelines is that the shortened isolation and quarantine periods allow asymptomatic students to return after five days. If this period includes a weekend, it is possible that a student will only miss three days, compared to ten or more based on last year’s guidelines.
Again, we will monitor the number of absences and, as we have done throughout the pandemic, modify our approach to meet the needs of our students.