March 26, 2021 Letter from Superintendent Malkas

March 26, 2021

Dear Students, Families, and Staff Members,

Each Thursday evening the Department of Public Health releases the city/town and Berkshire County data updates for the previous 14 day period. There are two new cases of COVID-19 associated with the schools for this week, which involved the Brayton Elementary School in addition to the two cases announced for Drury High School on March 21, 2021. Notification of these cases occurred by letters from the Superintendent posted to the district website and social media.

The key information used to determine moving to remote learning or remaining with the hybrid model includes:

  • The positivity rate for the City of North Adams: Current rate is 0.98%.

  • The average positivity rate for 15 communities, not including North Adams, calculated from the total positive cases divided by the total number of tests for the last 14 days multiplied by 100: Current rate is 1.34%.

  • The pool testing results for Cohort A for this week and last week’s Cohort B students, staff, and student athletes are reported as negative, except for one pool that was followed up on Thursday, March 25, 2021 with notification to the community.

  • The report by the school nurse leader of the total number of cases of COVID by school and the status of each case (contact tracing, quarantine and self-isolation, and awaiting follow-up test results).

On Friday, March 26, 2021, the COVID Data Team (a joint labor management team) met to review the data and take a vote for the return to school. The vote was unanimous to accept the data report and support the continuation of the hybrid model effective Monday, March 29, 2021 for all grades, except for the PreK and Kindergarten classes at Brayton Elementary School who may return to the hybrid instructional model on Thursday, April 1, 2021.

In school transmission rates remain very low due to the effective use of all mitigation strategies, including: masks, physical distancing, disinfection protocols, and the addition of a pooled testing program. However, there has been an increase in cases in the past week due to a relaxation of the rules as more individuals become vaccinated. While obtaining a vaccination can provide the protection from getting the most serious complications of COVID-19, it may not provide blanket immunity to the virus. The existence of multiple variants of the virus with different profiles for contagion and impact is still a consideration. 

Your continued use of these mitigation measures while not in school will help to keep our students in school for longer periods of time and get all students back to school for in-person learning. Please practice prevention of infection and as always, if a staff member or student develops symptoms it is imperative that they stay home and contact their health care provider.

On Tuesday, March 9, 2021, the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education notified all school districts of his plan for a return to in-person learning for students in grades kindergarten to 5, 6 through 8, and 9 through 12. In order to comply with the expectations to meet the time on learning requirements, the phase into full in-person learning will begin on April 5, 2021 for our elementary students in grades preK-6 and for students in the 7th and 8th grade academy on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. A return date for high school students has yet to be announced by Commissioner Riley. Drury High School students will remain in hybrid and remote learning until the date for full in-person is announced. 

The guidance for in-person learning and school transportation from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can be viewed at: https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/on-desktop.html

While meeting with our transportation provider, Dufour Bus, the following items were determined as necessary for safe transportation:

  • Masks must be worn by all students as they enter the bus, ride the bus, and upon arrival at school or the bus stop at dismissal. This mitigation strategy will be strictly enforced and the privilege of riding the bus will be revoked for refusing to wear a mask during transportation.

  • Buses will be disinfected using COVID-19 specific antiviral cleaners before and after each bus run.

  • Students should get into the habit of sanitizing their hands upon arrival at school and before exiting the school to get on the bus. Hand sanitizer stations are available at the entrance/exit of each school building and in each hallway.

  • Students should wash their hands with soap and water upon arrival at home after school.

  • Following DESE guidance, a maximum of no more than two students per seat will be allowed during transportation, but wherever possible students will be seated on the bus to maximize physical distancing based on bus capacity.

  • Loading and unloading procedures will be developed based on specific school logistics.

  • Parents retain the option of remaining fully remote or providing transportation for their children if adherence to these guidelines does not meet individual expectations.

Pooled Testing Program

North Adams Public Schools has implemented a voluntary free weekly COVID-19 testing program to help keep our staff, students and community safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Regular COVID-19 testing of students and staff will help us lower the risk of the disease in our school by finding and isolating individuals who have COVID-19 quickly, even before or if they show symptoms. We have confidence in our safety protocols including masking, distancing, and disinfection protocols. The weekly COVID-19 testing program is just another way we are striving to keep our school environment safe for everyone. It is not too late to provide consent for your child to participate in this valuable program. 

The ability to join the pooled testing program by providing consent will remain an open enrollment process and you can submit your consent form at any time. Please provide an individual consent form for each of your children who attends North Adams Public SchoolsThe more individuals who participate, the safer our schools will be!  

To participate in the testing program, you need to sign a consent form. You only need to sign once to consent for testing each week.  The consent form can be found on the new COVID Pool Testing Program webpage on the district webpage located here.

Have Questions?  Contact Lauren Gage, District Testing Coordinator and School Nurse Leader at lgage@napsk12.org. 

Thank you and we hope each of you and your families remain healthy!

Dr. Barbara Malkas