Dear Parents/Guardians and Students,
As we are actively preparing for the return to school according to the timeline of the Commissioner’s proposed plan, I know there are many questions, concerns and issues that need to be addressed. Please know that as I am made aware of information and guidance that I will bring it forward to you in as timely a manner as I can given that we are often waiting for confirmation from the state.
The reopening guidance and transportation guidance can be found at: https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/on-desktop.html
Timeline for returning to in-person learning
The guidance documents provide the framework for the expectations for the return to school. North Adams Public Schools will follow the state mandated reopening for in-person learning timeline, which identified Monday, April 5, 2021 for elementary students and Wednesday, April 28, 2021 for the students in the grades 7 and 8 Academy. We have not received a specific date for a high school return to in-person learning. Until we have a date for grades 9-12, the high school will follow the hybrid learning model schedule.
Physical distancing expectations
The new guidance requires a minimum of 3 feet of physical distance for student seat edge to seat edge for masked students facing the same direction in the classroom. Based on the responses to the parent/guardian enrollment survey, we may be able to have more than 3 feet of physical distance between students in some classrooms, and the maximum distance allowable, based on capacity, will be allowed.The capacity study for each school indicates that no classroom will be at maximum capacity, and in many cases physical distance between students will be between 3-6 feet.
Breakfasts will be sent home at the end of each day for students to eat prior to coming to school. Food Services Director Cory Nicholas is working with Facilities Director Robert Flaherty and the principals to set up lunch service, with a minimum required 6 feet of physical distance, as students need to remove their masks when eating. This will require a culture shift from students and staff members viewing lunch as a social opportunity and will need education and reinforcement that student/staff physical distance when masks are off is a necessary requirement. Talking between students is discouraged while masks are off during eating.
Tents will be set up at each school site to provide a sheltered space for outdoor mask breaks and learning activities at the discretion and supervision of administration. The tent spaces can also be used to expand capacity for food service at lunches. Social interaction requires masks be worn at all times due to the possibility of breaching physical distance.
Personal hygiene practices
The personal hygiene practices for hand washing and hand sanitization will be reinforced in all classrooms. Considerations to be emphasized include washing or sanitizing hands upon:
Entering the school building
Exiting the school building
Before removing your mask
Prior to and after eating
Before putting on your mask
After coming in contact with surfaces
Washing hands with soap and water is recommended, but hand sanitizer stations are also available at the entrances,in the hallways, and classrooms. Please review with your child the proper way to wash their hands and expectations for the use of sanitizer.
Mask wearing continues to be the most effective mitigation strategy for reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, including the common cold and influenza. All students will be required to wear masks at all times while transporting by bus to and from school and entering and exiting the school. Bus company employees and NAPS staff will have access to a supply of disposable masks to provide to students who have a soiled mask or in the event a mask becomes unwearable due to breakage or contamination. Students may consider wearing two masks as recommended by the CDC, but this is not required.
Remote and In-person Learning
With some students remaining in remote learning for the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, it will be necessary for educators to plan for their access to teaching and learning. All students will continue to use Canvas as the primary learning management system for accessing assignments and learning activities. Educators will employ the use of “livestreaming” according to the following agreed upon definitions. It is agreed that “livestreaming” shall constitute any/all of the following approaches:
Classroom Canvas-based assignments – remote students attending via Zoom where students are simultaneously receiving direct instruction with those who are attending in-person
Teachers develop a schedule where live instruction to the remote group of students is conducted directly with the group/individual.
Video presentation of instructional topics that remote (or any) student can access. Videos may be recorded by the teacher, or may be presented by an industry-accepted and recognized platform (ex: Khan Academy). Videos are for support of conceptual and skills-based learning but should not be the only form of instruction remote students receive.
Considerations for Remote Learning and School Closure
The district will continue to provide weekly Department of Public Health Data Reports for the city of North Adams and the 15 cities and towns identified for review. In addition, the district will continue to notify the community regarding any new COVID-19 positive cases. The COVID Data team, consisting of representatives from the teachers’ bargaining unit, school committee, and district administration will continue to meet weekly to review the data and any current cases. The district will follow the guidance from the “Protocols for responding to COVID-19 scenarios in school, on the bus, or in community settings” document from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
There will be a need for some students and staff to remain in remote learning due to quarantine and self-isolation as infections are still possible. Only those students absent from in-person learning due to COVID related quarantine or self-isolation, may participate in remote learning if well enough to join their classes on-line.
School closures may result from multiple cases in a school impacting multiple zones, and district closure would result from multiple schools having multiple cases. (Please see the guidance indicated on page 21-22 of the above mentioned DESE protocols document). A school closure will only occur if the data indicates school community spread or if contact tracing requires a large number of staff to quarantine while awaiting testing. These closures will be limited by the number of days necessary for quarantine.
Public Health Nurse Leslie Drager met with School Nurse Leader Lauren Gage and me to review some of the concerns regarding contact tracing, quarantine, and travel as we prepare for the return to school. She indicated the following:
If you have symptoms or a known contact, it is important that you stay home and make arrangements to be tested as soon as possible.
Follow the DESE and DPH guidelines for testing and make sure you are aware of travel advisories for entering and returning from out of state travel.
All returning residents of Massachusetts who have traveled out of state are advised to quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival, unless:
They have received a negative COVID-19 result on a test administered not more than 72 hours prior to their return to Massachusetts. Residents may also test out of the quarantine advisory after returning to Massachusetts, as long as they quarantine until receiving a negative test result.
Anyone who is returning to Massachusetts after being out of the State for fewer than 24 hours.
With the state guidance requiring a return to full in-person learning as defined as, “all structured learning time hours (on average 5 hours per day of structured learning time at the elementary level and 5.5 hours per day at the secondary level) are to be delivered in person, “five days per week”, the district will no longer have remote learning on Wednesdays for disinfection of the classrooms, according to the DESE timeline for returning to full in-person learning, effective as of:
-April 5th for the elementary schools
-April 28th for grades 7 and 8
-Date to be determined for grades 9-12, pending DESE’s confirmation of a date to return to full in-person learning. For now, grades 9-12 will adhere to the current hybrid schedule, with Wednesdays as a full remote day.
The North Adams Public Schools will continue to use disinfection sprayers and COVID-19 specific cleaning solutions to disinfect classrooms during the second shift beyond the school day. The Facilities Director has provided additional staffing and hours for existing staff to complete this work for schoolwide disinfection.
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.
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 Schools. The more individuals who participate, the safer our schools will be!
You only need to sign once to consent for testing each week. The consent form can be found on the COVID Pool Testing Program webpage on the district webpage located here.
Have Questions? Contact Lauren Gage, District Testing Coordinator and School Nurse Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org.