February 26, 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. The incidence of COVID-19 in the school community is very limited at this time.

The key information used to determine moving to remote learning included:

  • The positivity rate for the City of North Adams: Current rate is 1.99%.
  • The average positivity rate for 15 communities calculated from the total positive cases divided by the total number of of tests for the last 14 days multiplied by 100: Current rate is 1.44%.
  • All of the pool testing results for Cohort A students and 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, February 26, 2021, the Joint Labor Management Committee 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 continuation of the hybrid model effective Monday, March 1, 2021.

The past week Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley have expressed their support for a phased in approach for a full return to school for in-person learning for the majority of students beginning in April. The ability to return to school is predicated upon the continued reduction of infection rates through effective and consistent use of mitigation strategies. In school transmission rates remain very low due to the effective use of these strategies, including: masks, physical distancing, disinfection protocols, and the addition of a pooled testing program  . However, infection rates are linked to community spread where the use of masks and physical distancing are not enforced. 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 possibly 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.

 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 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.

 If you haven’t done so already, 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:

  • 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.
  • 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 to 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 Pool 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!

Dr. Barbara Malkas