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COVID-19 Resources

HOPKINTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN

SEPTEMBER 2021

 

CONTEXT

As we enter into the 2021-2022 School Year, we are excited to be welcoming all students back to full-time, in-person learning. The past 18 months have certainly posed some challenges, and while the world is not necessarily seeing COVID-19 or its variants in our rear-view mirror, we are certainly on the road to something that comes closer to resembling “school.”

The Hopkinton Public Schools’ Administrative Team have worked tirelessly over the summer to ensure the smoothest transition for all students back into our schools. We are prioritizing building relationships and ensuring health and safety practices that support the well-being of our staff and students. We are also prioritizing the short-term and long-term instructional needs of our students. Top of mind is the fact that some of our returning students have not stepped foot in an actual school building since March 10, 2020, while others have experienced school predominantly on an every-other-day basis. 

In order to maximize teaching and learning and minimize health and safety risks, the Hopkinton Public Schools plan to re-employ practices that worked effectively last year. The plan for the opening of school, which is a layered approach, 2021 is as follows:

  1. MASKING

DESE

DESE updated its guidance regarding face coverings on August 25, 2021.  The complete Guidance can be found on the DESE website. Expectations for masking are as follows:

  • Effective immediately, public school students (age 5 and above) and staff in all grades are required to wear masks indoors in schools, except as noted below. Masks are not required when outdoors. All visitors are also expected to wear a mask in school buildings.

  • The mask requirement will be in place until at least October 1, 2021. The Commissioner will revisit the requirement in the near future to revise it as warranted by public health data.

  • Masks should cover an individual’s nose and mouth. For more information about appropriate mask use, please see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/downloads/cloth-face-covering.pdf.

  • It is strongly recommended that students younger than age 5 also wear a mask in school.

  • Students and staff who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, and students who cannot wear a mask for behavioral reasons, are exempted from the requirement. Face shields may be an option for students with medical or behavioral needs who are unable to wear masks or face coverings. Transparent masks may be the best option for both teachers and students in classes for deaf and hard of hearing students.

  • By federal public health order, all students and staff are required to wear masks on school buses at this time.

OTHER GUIDANCE

CDC

On July 9th, the CDC issued the following: "CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place."

AAP

Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics, "strongly recommends in-person learning and urges all who are eligible to be vaccinated to protect against COVID-19. In addition to vaccinations, the AAP recommends a layered approach to make school safe for all students, teachers and staff. That includes a recommendation that everyone older than age 2 wear masks, regardless of vaccination status."

Because it is germane to decision-making around masking, this report contains the most recently available vaccination metrics. The Information you see below was updated on August 5, 2021.

   LOCAL METRICS

(2) HYGIENE

We will continue our hand hygiene and maintain physical distancing as possible. Hand sanitizer will be in place throughout our schools for times when regular hand-washing cannot occur. We require that students and staff stay home when sick.  Parents must ensure that students attend school only when healthy. Very simply, if COVID-19 positive persons are not in our school buildings, the virus cannot be transmitted. As a reminder, please see the DESE provided  list of COVID-19 symptoms below.

COVID-19 SYMPTOMS

Below is the full list of symptoms for which caregivers should monitor their children, and staff should monitor themselves.

Unvaccinated individuals and any close contacts presenting these symptoms should follow testing and quarantine response protocols as outlined later in this document.

Vaccinated individuals who are not close contacts should follow the testing and quarantine response protocols if they are experiencing symptoms in bold. These individuals may also seek clinical guidance to assess the need for PCR testing if they have other symptoms on this list.

COVID-19 symptoms list:

  • Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Muscle aches or body aches

  • Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)

  • Sore throat, when in combination with other symptoms

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when in combination with other symptoms

  • Headache when in combination with other symptoms

  • Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms

  • Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in
    combination with other symptoms

(3) CLOSE-CONTACTS, “TEST AND STAY,” AND QUARANTINING 

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have issued the following regarding quarantining, close-contacts, and “test and stay.”

DEFINITION OF A CLOSE CONTACT

Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors, for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.

Please note that the at-risk exposure time begins 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or time of positive test if asymptomatic) and continues until the time the COVID-19 positive individual is isolated.

The following close contacts are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols:

  • 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 if:
    -The exposure occurred within 90 days of the onset of their own illness AND
    -The exposed individual is recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms.

TEST AND STAY

If a masked student is exposed to COVID-19 in school, the student can “test and stay,” which means that this student, now defined as a “close contact,” can remain in school and does not have to quarantine, as long as the student:

  • Is asymptomatic

  • Wears masks in school at all times, other than when eating or drinking. When these individuals cannot be masked, for example, when eating or drinking,  they should maintain 3 feet of distance from other individuals to the extent feasible.

  • Takes a rapid antigen test (e.g., BinaxNOW) on each school day and receives a negative result.  When the 7 days from date of exposure includes weekends or holidays, individuals should quarantine on weekends, and if they remain asymptomatic, upon return to school be tested immediately. If the individual remains negative, they can stay in school

  • Conducts active monitoring for symptoms through day 14, and self-isolate at home if symptoms develop.

QUARANTINING AND LEARNING EXPECTATIONS

While in quarantine students will be asked to complete work sent home by the teacher, just as if the student were out of school with a multi-day illness. Zoom sessions and live-streaming are not an option for at-home learning this year.

DESE NOTES: “If schools are not able to allow students to join their schedule remotely, schools should adopt a policy consistent with other absences and provide work for students that can be completed while at home. To minimize the amount of time required to quarantine outside of school districts should adopt the Test and Stay program.” Again, Hopkinton has adopted a Test and Stay program.

(4) SCHOOL BUILDING CLEANING AND VENTILATION  

The District will ensure buildings are kept clean and maintained throughout the year; cleaning routines have been revised since last year, as we have learned more about how the virus lives on surfaces and how it is transmitted. 

The District will continue to use the ventilation practices we used last year with 100 percent introduction of fresh, outside air being pushed into the buildings.

(5) LUNCH

The Commissioner of Education has indicated that social distancing is no longer a metric to be used when considering reopening our schools. Couple that with the fact that Hopkinton’s lunchrooms are undersized for the student population in every building, and the end result is we have students eating unmasked at their regular cafeteria tables.  Lunch will resume its normal pre-pandemic routines and offerings, and lunch will continue to be free for all students.  Students will have assigned seating at lunch in all buildings, except the high school, which will use a QR code method of identifying where students have sat. Lunchrooms will be ventilated by pushing in fresh, outdoor air as each individual building affords. The District will explore HEPA filtration systems and the use of other spaces, as or if practicable. The District is encouraging families to use the face shields we issued last year, as an additional layer of safety at lunch. Building principals will work with individual families whose children fall under the CDC’s list of conditions considered to be moderately to severely immunocompromised.  Finally, families may dismiss their children for the lunch period and use the HPS parking lots, if space allows, for students to eat in their cars. (The Hopkinton Public Health Office assures the HPS that we have no West Nile or EEE virus in this region at this time.)

The current plan in Massachusetts is essentially built on an honor system, meaning we rely upon one another to stay home and seek a medical opinion when we have any symptoms whatsoever. If we wish to keep COVID-19 out of our schools and lunchrooms, we must commit to keeping our children home when they have symptoms, no matter how slight. Please, do not write symptoms off as “allergies” or “just a scratchy throat”; instead, COVID-19 tests can be immediately secured at the local Public Health Nurse’s office, your child’s pediatrician’s office, and at Urgent Care facilities. Please reach out to the necessary professional and GET TESTED!

(6) INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC AND CHORUS CLASSES

Just as we did last spring, music classes will be held in larger spaces with adequate ventilation and air exchange.  Unless outdoors, students will be masked if singing and wind instrument players will wear masks with slits for their mouthpieces.  Instrument covers and “puppy pads” for floor absorption and minimization of droplets will continue to be used as they were last year.  Students will have as much distance as possible in  classes. 

(7) MIAA GOVERNED ATHLETICS

MIAA has released guidance in concert with DESE. Student athletes will be masked when participating in athletics indoors, including, but not limited to spaces such as the AC, locker rooms, and the weight room.