First, I am writing to update you on the number of confirmed covid-19 cases within our schools. To date, since September 1st, 2021, we have the following number of confirmed cases among our staff and students.
|East Brookfield Elementary||5||41||46|
|Wire Village School||19||120||139|
|Knox Trail Middle School||6||72||78|
|David Prouty High School||14||54||68|
Prior to the Holiday recess, we had a total of 17 staff and 158 students for a total of 175 confirmed cases of Covid-19. As of this evening, we are now at 44 staff and 287 students for a total of 331 confirmed cases of Covid-19. As a result, I am writing to ask for your continued support, partnership, and assistance in combating the omicron variant and Covid-19 within our regional school district.
Second - I wanted to share with families that beginning tomorrow, Thursday Jan. 13 we are going to add a requirement to the state minimum requirements outlined in our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). This is a pretty BIG DEAL because we have always followed these SOP's to the T, but this change is very important to the safety of our students while at school. The current SOP does not require that household close contacts quarantine due to our universal masking policy. Over the past several days we have seen a pattern emerge in our positive cases and are becoming concerned about the impacts this may have on the safety of our classrooms. The pattern that we have seen emerge is that children whose household family members test positive for COVID 19 but remain asymptomatic are testing negative for a while (often about 2-3 days) but then testing positive on the 3rd or 4th day due to the continuous exposure at home. What makes this problem worse is that because these students have been allowed back in school as long as they remained asymptomatic, we are now seeing the potential for increased spread at school.
Because of this, we will be asking household close contacts to quarantine for 5 days once the family becomes aware of a positive case in the household. If there are multiple exposures in the household, we will be asking household close contacts to quarantine for 10 days. (Note: This is similar to the old rules that required 10 days upon original notification but then up to 20 days for multiple household exposures, but far less time out of school total than before). This change in procedures for the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District will be implemented immediately and will be effective immediately for all CURRENT and FUTURE Household close contacts unless otherwise notified.
As always, I truly appreciate the flexibility and support of our parents and community as we continue to work hard to keep our schools open for in person learning even amidst the current Omicron case surge. I have no doubt that TOGETHER we can do it, and it will be each of us working hand in hand with our neighbors making these little adjustments that will make the big difference.
Third - I wanted to remind families that as the schools conduct testing, we are required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to only use these tests for students that become symptomatic while at school. I know that with the shortage of test availability it may be tempting for some to consider sending their sick children to school just so they can be tested. Please do not do this for two important reasons.
1). By doing so you are potentially exposing other children/families/staff to COVID 19 and
2). We simply do not have the testing availability to do this for all of our students each day. Again, we realize the barrier that this creates for many families but the reality is that we simply can't test every student, every day and the state require us to only use these tests for what is described above.
Fourth - Over the past few weeks as we worked our way through this surge in Covid-19 cases together, we have noticed that anxiety has increased among staff, among students, and among families. A few things to think about and acknowledge here..
* It is during the most difficult of times that we need to "lean into this pandemic" and “lean upon” one another rather than become more divisive.
* Our schools remain safe and supportive places for our children and staff to be each day.
* We have gotten this far through the pandemic together... We will continue to tackle anything this pandemic has to throw at us successfully together.
* Let's all remember, that what comes out of us when we are squeezed is what is inside of us (one of my more favorite quotes). Take a moment - breathe - and make sure what is coming out is what you want to come out and understand that may be different for everyone.
I would be remiss if I didn't end this message by reminding people once again of the valuable steps you can each take to help prevent the spread of COVID 19 and keep our schools open...those are:
- Stay home when sick
- Wear your mask
- Wash/Sanitize your hands frequently
- Keep socially distant when you can
- And yes - you guessed it... Stay home when sick!
Thank you everyone... Have a great evening!
See you all "back at it" again tomorrow with bells on!
Paul S. Haughey, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District
Contact Tracing Update
Given the current volume of active and emerging cases, it is no longer feasible to perform effective contact-tracing for each case. Due to the various mitigation measures in place to stop the spread at each school, we are suspending contact-tracing at this time.
Pooled Testing Update
We are excited to announce that in the coming weeks, we will re-implement pooled testing into our existing testing practices. This additional level of testing will be made available to all district staff and students. This program involves combining several test samples together and then testing the group sample with a PCR test for detection of COVID-19. If a pooled test returns a positive restult, rapid/antigen testing would then be performed on the individuals that provided a swab for the positive pool in order to identify the COVID positive individual(s). The great thing about this form of testing is that it allows us to proactively identify COVID positive cases and potential close contacts. We will continue to offer the Symptomatic and Test and Stay programs but our hope is that pooled testing will help significantly reduce the number of testing supplies needed; as well as alleviate disruption to the school day for students. Pooled testing will occur one day a week for ALL staff and students with a consent to test form on file.
If you previously consented for your child to participate in the Symptomatic and Test and Stay programs, you do not need to complete another consent form. If you did not previously give consent for your child to participate in testing, you can do so here. https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma
Exemptions to close contact, quarantine and testing protocols
An individual who meets the definition of “close contact” may be exempt from any quarantine or testing protocols in school.
The following individuals should not be asked to take a test, quarantine, or participate in Test and Stay:
• Asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts: Individuals who are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.
• Classroom close contacts: An individual who is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual in the classroom while both individuals were masked, so long as the individuals were spaced at least 3 feet apart, is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.
• Bus close contacts: Individuals on buses must be masked according to federal requirements. As such, individuals who are masked on buses when windows are open are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.
• Close contacts who have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days: An individual who has been previously diagnosed with COVID-19 and then becomes a close contact of someone with COVID-19 is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols