Dear Students, Families, and Staff Members,
March has certainly roared in like a lion with cold temperatures and high winds, but with increasing daylight each day there is hope for spring ahead, and this month’s exit to go out like a lamb. It was a year ago in March that we first started to hear of coronavirus infections in our country, and we prepared for the virus to make its presence known in our school community. No one could have prepared for the need to consider closing schools for an extended period of time. What has followed has been a very difficult year for everyone, our students, our families, and our teachers and staff members, but we have persevered and learned new things along the way that have allowed us all to demonstrate the district’s core values for respect, responsibility, and resilience. While it will soon be a full year since we closed schools on March 13th, 2020, there is hope for our future. Between the changes we have personally made to stop the spread of COVID-19 including mask wearing, physical distancing, limited gatherings and travel, and the increased use of testing and availability of vaccines, we hope to sustain in-person learning in the hybrid model and to be able to keep our schools open for longer periods of time.
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 limited to the single case at Drury High School announced on March 3rd.
The key information used to determine moving to remote learning or remaining with the hybrid model includes:
- The positivity rate for the City of North Adams: Current rate is 1.43%.
- The average positivity rate for 15 communities, not including North Adams, calculated from the total positive cases divided by the total number of tests for the last 14 days multiplied by 100: Current rate is 0.59%.
- All of the pool testing results for Cohort A and last week’s Cohort B students, 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, March 5, 2021, the COVID Data Team (a joint labor management team) 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 8, 2021, for all grades.
In school transmission rates remain very low due to the effective use of all mitigation strategies, including: masks, physical distancing, disinfection protocols, and the addition of a pooled testing program. 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 and contact their health care provider.
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 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 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. Please provide an individual consent form for each of your children who attend North Adams Public Schools.The more individuals who participate, the safer our schools 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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you and we hope each of you and your families remain healthy!
Dr. Barbara Malkas