School Committee Reviews Past Covid Protocols and Plans for 2021-22
Last night, August 25, was the first School Committee meeting for the 2021-22 school year, though as far as I can tell, the work never stopped from last year. Summer meetings, Board of Health meetings, administration working behind the scenes in the school–I really hope these folks got some good time off this summer. In any case, the Owl was onboard for just an hour and a half of the three-hour meeting, mostly because a roasted chicken was calling from the next room. So, further research by way of the video replay will be necessary for some part of the meeting–including some very interesting enrollment news. Nail-biter, I know.
The meeting set off in generally the same way as always, though reports were short because…summer. During the Superintendent’s Report ,Dr. Midge Connolly emphasized that the overarching goal is to have in-person learning for 180 days this year. This foreshadowing led to a presentation by one of my favorite overworked people, Michele Schuckel, goddess of the Board of Health, or something like that title.
Michele mentioned first that the Board of Health website is updated weekly at www.westonma.gov/health. Please note that the town website is the place you should go for official information from the town–the Owl remains a sarcastic and sometimes wrong spot to get your official health news. Though I am fun. Sometimes.
The state mandate for masks in school was reviewed as well as the recent Board of Health decision to mandate masks in school for staff, students and teachers, whether or not they had been vaccinated. Attia Linnard, School Committee member, asked what the Board of Health was looking for to re-evaluate the mask order for the 12-19 year old (eligible for vaccine) crowd in the future (ostensibly post October 1, given the state’s directions).
“The vaccination rate [for the 12-19 year olds] is awesome, but we don’t exist in a bubble,” according to Michele. “We need to look at the surrounding communities, of which 35 are represented in our schools through staff and teachers and students.”
Jamy Gaynor, Field School Nurse and Nursing Director, further commented that if the vaccination rates continue to be high and the testing rates are high, there will be an argument for high school and middle school to unmask. That would be a Board of Health-overseen decision.
Jamy then took us all on a walk down memory lane. The 7 Secrets to Weston’s Success (170 days of in-person instruction last year, and no transmission in schools) were masking, spacing, symptom screening, cleansing, testing, ventilation and contact tracing. Do you need me to explain those? No.
For the schools during the 2020-21 school year, there were 7,354 individual PCR tests with 20 positive cases. From March and the start of pool testing, there were 1,017 pool tests and 3 positive screenings (pools). There were 72 Rapid Antigen tests (BinaxNOW) and 3 positive cases identified. There were 97 total positive cases district-wide.
And so, since we kicked tush last year, what’s the plan for this school year? Prevention, according to Jamy, is key. People need to stay at home when they are sick, wear masks and continue to distance when possible. The masking will be indoor-only (but includes indoor sports, fyi) and spacing will be 3-6 feet depending on situation.
For testing, Weston will be moving to the state testing model and a weekly safety screen. Weston will partner with CIC Health, and our school nurses will not be doing the testing this year. The logistics of the weekly screening are to be announced but the plan is to have two swabs taken — one for pool testing, and one held in reserve as an individual test if the pool test comes back positive.
There were a number of details about Test-to-Stay for close contacts, but the Owl here admits that dinner was starting to call and not enough attention was paid. Something like daily testing for 5 days, rapid antigen testing, if no symptoms and negative test, the students can stay and play (how AP Calculus gets termed as “playing”, I do not know). If there are symptoms, then it is quarantine time and no AP Calculus for you. Remember, no remote option this year. Again, I would check this when the official word comes out. Not the Calculus part.
Update 4 pm: Weston Media recording now available here.