January 22, 2021 Letter from Superintendent Malkas

Dear Students, Families, and Staff Members,

 On Thursday, January 21, 2021, Governor Baker announced an extension of the existing, across the board 25% capacity limits for most businesses and current limitations on gatherings through 5:00 am on Monday, February 8th. It was also announced that effective Monday, January 25th at 5:00 am, it would rescind an existing “Early Closing” order requiring many businesses to close at 9:30 pm each evening, and that at the same time it would also withdraw its related “Stay At Home” advisory urging residents to remain at home between the hours of 10:00 pm to 5:00 am. All other orders and safety guidance remain in place throughout the Commonwealth as the state continues to fight COVID-19 and vaccines ramp up in all regions.

This is good news and it is due to the decreasing number of positive cases statewide in the past week. However, the data, while promising, is not below the thresholds necessary to return to school in the hybrid model. Each Thursday evening the Department of Public Health releases the city/town and Berkshire County data updates for the previous 14 day period. The most recent data has shown that there is a decrease in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city, county, and state.

The benchmarks that we use to determine if there is community spread that warrants moving to remote learning include:

  • 3% positivity rate for the City of North Adams: Current rate is 3.03%.
  • 3% average positivity rate for 15 collective towns and cities that represent locations where staff or students who enter North Adams Public Schools reside: Current rate is 4.32%.

Both the 3.03% positivity rate for the city and the 4.32% positivity rate for the 15 collective towns has triggered the continuation of remote learning through January 29, 2021. However, it is close enough that with one more week of data showing that people are exercising the precautionary measures to decrease infection rates we may drop below the 3% positivity rate and be able to resume in-person learning for those students electing to participate in the hybrid model. If the data supports it, then we will resume a return to the hybrid model on Monday, February 1st, 2021. The announcement will be made next Friday, January 29, 2021.

The loss of life due to this pandemic is staggering to comprehend. There is still so much to learn and so much to do before we can “return to normal”, but there are simple steps that can be taken today to keep our local and regional rate of contagion low.

  • Wearing a mask in public
  • Physical distancing
  • Limiting capacity at gatherings
  • Practicing good personal hygiene

If everyone does their part, then we can get our schools back to fulfilling their mission. If everyone does their part, then students will be able to get the much needed support and socialization. If everyone does their part, then our teachers can interact with their students in meaningful ways that support academic achievement. If everyone does their part, then parents will get the time and support needed for their own self care during this crisis. If everyone does their part, then we have less contagion and low mortality rates from this virus.

If everyone does their part, then we each save lives.

COVID- 19 Symptoms

If you or your child develops any symptoms associated with COVID-19, it is important that you quarantine and schedule a test to confirm your illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

Call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

COVID-19 Testing

Rapid PCR testing is available in the office of North Berkshire Pediatrics:  This test is for their patients who have any symptoms that could possibly be due to COVID. The test result is available in 15 minutes and the practice is available to see these patients 7 days a week. The rapid test is not sensitive enough for people without symptoms, so if patients who were exposed to a COVID positive individual but don’t have symptoms can either be seen and have a test performed to send to BMC or direct them to a testing site. Increased availability and faster turnaround times for results are available through BMC: the North Adams testing site is open 7 days a week from 8:30-4 by appointment (call 855-BMC-LINK) and the tests are now being sent to the Broad Institute which has a slightly greater than 24 hours turnaround time.

It is my sincerest hope that all of our families, staff and community members can remain in good health and do those things that will help us to get back to school in the coming weeks.

Thank you.

Dr. Barbara Malkas