January 29, 2021  Letter from  Superintendent Malkas

Dear Students, Families, and Staff Members,

The number of positive cases statewide and locally has decreased substantially in the past week. However, the data, while promising, is not below one of the thresholds necessary to return to school in the hybrid model for next week.  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 2.04%.
  • 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 3.63%.

The 3.63% positivity rate for the 15 collective towns has triggered the continuation of remote learning through February 5, 2021. 

The Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has announced a program to incorporate “pooled testing” for COVID-19 in schools in order to have students return to school and to keep students in school for longer periods of time. North Adams Public Schools has applied to be a part of this program and we are waiting for a response from the state. Adding a comprehensive testing program for staff and students to our mitigation strategies will help us to establish new metrics for school reopening and provide real time data. More information on this program can be found at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website at: https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/pooled-testing/. There will be a presentation to the school committee at their regular meeting on Tuesday, February 2, 2021 at 6:00 pm. You can access this meeting via zoom.us with this link: https://napsk12.zoom.us/j/96070516686. A comprehensive letter for parents regarding the program, as well as a parent consent form, will be sent out next week.

The rollout of vaccines is slower than anticipated. In part due to the federal and state inventory. There are new variants of the virus that are considered more contagious than the virus we have been trying to prevent. However, we know that we can successfully reduce the rate of infection by some simple consistent practices:

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

It is critically important for all of us to contribute to our health and well being by maintaining these practices, staying home and away from others if symptomatic, and getting tested to know for certain that you are not contagious.

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 or if the patient is asymptomatic and has been exposed to someone with COVID. The test result is available in 15 minutes and the practice is available to see these patients 7 days a week. There is increased availability and faster turnaround times for results through BMC: the North Adams testing site is open 7 days a week from 8:30-4:00 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