April 2, 2021 Letter from Superintendent Malkas

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 a total of five cases in the district involving students and staff. 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 full remote learning or remaining with the hybrid model for grades 7-12 and full in-person learning for the elementary schools, includes:

  • The positivity rate for the City of North Adams: Current rate is 1.95%.

  • 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 2.08%.

  • 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.

  • 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, April 2, 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 return of our elementary schools for full in-person learning and a continuation of the hybrid model for grades 7-12 effective Monday, April 5, 2021 for all grades.

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. There is a local, statewide, and national increase in infection rates and hospitalizations. 

The Center for Disease Control has issued new guidance regarding gatherings for people celebrating Easter. Celebrate with people that you live with or other vaccinated individuals, celebrate virtually or outside if the weather is permissible, and wear masks and maintain your physical distance of 6 feet or more. 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.

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. It  has come to my attention that a rumor has started on social media regarding the use of carcinogenic chemicals on the nasal swabs used in our surveillance testing program. This is false! The nasal swabs used through CICHealth are untreated cotton swabs, no different than a Q-tip.

 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 Schools.The 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