2/19/2021 Letter from Superintendent Malkas

Dear Students, Families, and Staff Members,

On Thursday, February 18, 2021, the North Adams Teacher’s Association (NATA) voted to ratify an addendum to the Memorandum of Agreement, which was approved by the School Committee at a special meeting. This memorandum changes the metrics used for transition from remote to hybrid learning and vice versa through a joint labor management committee decision after review of the weekly data. Each Thursday evening the Department of Public Health releases the city/town and Berkshire County data updates for the previous 14 day period. The incidence of COVID-19 in the school community is currently limited.

The key information used to determine returning to hybrid learning includes:
● The positivity rate for the City of North Adams: Current rate is 1.37%.
● The average positivity rate for 15 communities calculated from the total positive cases divided by the total number of tests for the last 14 days multiplied by 100: Current rate is 1.17%.
● The report by the school nurse leader of 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).

The Joint Labor Management Committee met to review the data and take a vote for the return to school on Friday, February 19, 2021. The vote was unanimous to accept the data report and support the return to school in the hybrid model effective Monday, February 22, 2021.


The North Adams Public Schools will resume the hybrid learning plan effective Monday, February 22, 2021 for Cohort A, and on Thursday, February 25, 2021 for Cohort B. The students in PreK and special education programs prioritized for in-person learning will also begin their scheduled program on Monday, February 22, 2021.

All of the mitigation strategies that were successfully implemented this past fall will still be in place: masks, physical distancing, disinfection protocols, and the addition of a pool testing program will help to keep our students and staff safe while in school. Your continued use of these mitigation measures while not in school will help to keep our students in school for longer periods of time. As always, if a staff member or student develops symptoms it is imperative that they stay home.

Pooled Testing Program

North Adams Public Schools is starting 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 never 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.

We hope that you will have your child participate by completing and signing a consent form.  The consent form is available on the district website at www.napsk12.org. The ability to join the pooled testing program by providing consent will remain an open enrollment and you can submit your consent form at any time. The more individuals who participate, the safer our school will be! 

What is the COVID-19 testing program?
● Participating individuals will be tested for COVID-19 once a week.
● The COVID-19 test is quick, easy and it does not hurt. It is a nasal test you can administer yourself that gently swabs the lower inner nostril.  
● The test is free. You do not need to pay for the test or have insurance to get the test.
● The program starts officially on 2/23.
● The test is performed at each school.
● We are in the process of developing a smooth scheduling system so that testing does not interrupt teaching and learning.
● The program is optional, but we hope you will participate to help us keep our schools as safe as possible. 

How can I participate in the program?
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.

This form gives consent to share your information if needed. No personal health information is provided to anyone outside of the district in the first round of pooled testing. Our school nurses or deans will call any individuals in a positive pool to explain next steps and discuss follow-up testing options. Test results will only be shared with the Department of Public Health if you test positive on an individual follow-up test. 

Your consent also gives us permission to share information with the technology platform we use to track testing. Your information will only be shared with the Department of Public Health and other departments if you test positive on an individual test.  

There are 2 ways to sign up*: 
1. Sign up electronically by downloading the consent form, completing it for your child with an electronic signature or scanned signature, and emailing it to School Nurse Leader Lauren Gage at lgage@napsk12.org.
2. Sign up by printing / signing the attached form and have your child bring it with them to their school.  
* Please provide an individual consent form for each of your children who attend North Adams Public Schools.

The program is voluntary. Your child is not required to participate in the program. If you do not consent for your child to participate, your child can still come to school. However, we strongly encourage you to have your child participate to help us reduce the spread of COVID-19.  

For more information about our COVID Pooled Testing Program please see previous communications on the district website and the DESE website at https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/pooled-testing/.

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

Thank you and we hope to see you soon!

Dr. Barbara Malkas