Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 1/5/22

New CDC Guidance for COVID Isolation and Quarantine

On December 27, 2021, the Center for Disease Control issued new guidance relative to the amount of time COVID-positive individuals need to isolate and unvaccinated close-contacts need to quarantine.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Department of Public Health released Updated Guidance on Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios on December 30th that reflects the CDC’s guidance.  Earlier this week, we sent the following guidance to families that reflect the new guidance:

Guidelines for Positive COVID cases:

Positive cases will now isolate for 5 days (instead of 10 days) and can return to school/work/regular activities on day 6 so long as they are either asymptomatic, or their symptoms have improved, they are fever-free for 24 hours, and they continue to wear a mask through day 10.  There is no need for public health nurses or school nurses to verify symptom improvement has occurred by day 5 with cases (students/parents).  Everyone should know to stay home if they are sick with fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, etc.  When students return to school and school-associated activities, they will continue to follow the mask mandate currently in effect and will need to socially distance while at lunch for an additional 5-days.  Both schools have designated spaces for students to socially distance during lunch.

Calculating the Quarantine and Post-Quarantine calendar 

Day 0Symptom Onset
Day 5Last full day of isolation
Day 6Return to school following the school masking policy Socially distanced Lunch
Day 11Follow the school masking policy  Lunch as preferred 
Quarantine Guidelines for Asymptomatic Close Contacts:

Asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts: Close contacts who are asymptomatic and

fully vaccinated are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.  At this time, fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks following the completion of the Pfizer or Moderna series or two weeks following a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Unvaccinated, School-Based Close Contacts: Test and Stay will remain in place for unvaccinated students and adults who are identified as school-based close contacts. The testing period has been shortened to 5-days (from 7 days) from the last known exposure date. Students who participate in Test and Stay will be eligible to attend school and school-based activities as long they continue to receive a negative test result.  Students who are eligible to participate in this program will be notified by a school administrator or their school nurse. 

Unvaccinated, Out-of-school close contacts: If you are unvaccinated and have been identified as an out-of-school close contact, you are not eligible for test and stay, but the quarantine period has been reduced to 5-days (from 7 days). You can exit quarantine on day 6 so long as you can produce a Negative COVID test and you have remained symptom-free.  Although the PCR test is the most accurate form of testing and is advised, antigen-testing will be accepted.  Proof of negative results needs to be forwarded to the school nurse prior to returning to school (copy of lab results or picture of the negative test).

Symptomatic Close Contacts: Please refer to the DESE/DPH protocols for symptomatic individuals. 

At-Home Covid Testing: At-home tests are unofficial results and the local board of health cannot follow up with at-home tests and perform appropriate contact tracing. Positive cases identified through an at-home test should isolate for 5 days and notify their own close contacts. PCR testing within 48 hours of a positive at-home test is advised for confirmation of the at-home test result.

Rapid Test and Mask Distribution to All Masconomet Employees

On December 22nd, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education made a supply of KN95 masks available to interested school districts in Massachusetts.  Masconomet received its supply of 10,000 KN95 masks on December 29th.  Thanks to Asst. Superintendent Jeff Sands for picking up the masks and delivering them during the holiday week.

On December 29th, DESE announced that it had procured rapid COVID-19 test kits for all K-12 employees in the state.  These tests were made available for pickup on January 1st.  Thanks to Keith Starosciak, our HVAC Technician for volunteering to pick up the tests on New Years’ Day.  One test and 30 masks were made available for all employees to pick up at Masconomet on Sunday, January 2nd from noon to 3:00 pm at Central Office.  Thanks to Patty Bullard for helping me with distributing tests and masks to over 100 employees who came to pick them up.  Jackie Bolduc and I then spent Monday January 3rd manning a location in the high school for any employee who was not available on Sunday to pick up their tests and masks.  As of this afternoon, over 200 employees have received their supply of tests and masks.

COVID Case Report

As we return from the holiday break, we are seeing the impact of the latest COVID surge on our school operations.  The latest challenge is getting accurate information of positive cases.  In the past, we have only reported positive cases that came as a result of a PCR COVID test.  These are the tests that are confirmed at a lab or doctor’s office.  Positive PCR test results are cataloged in MAVEN, which is a state-wide COVID-tracking database.  For the past two years, our practice has been to track these cases that were reported to us through our local public health departments via MAVEN.  This week’s COVID Case report is consistent with that practice.  However, I must say that the numbers I have received from our local public health departments are not reflective of what we are seeing and hearing in our school health offices and are very likely to be underreported.  For example, we have had over 200 students absent at the high school and 60 students absent at the middle school today, January 5th.  These numbers are dramatically higher than the “official” counts I’m going to present here.  Because of this discrepancy, I’ve decided to temporarily suspend the afternoon calls to the community reporting COVID cases until I have better information on our actual case numbers.

Since my last report on December 15th, we have seen an additional 55 positive cases.  Twenty-nine of these cases were reported over the holiday break (between 12/23/21 and 1/2/22), so they were not in school while infectious. 

Looking at the Case Counts by School and Month, for the month of January, we are at a reported 34 positive cases. 

Of the 27 middle school cases in December and January, 15 were reported after December 23rd, and 17 of the 25 high school cases in December and January were after December 23rd.  Most of these students, therefore were not in school while infectious and many have already completed their isolation requirement and returned to school.

Fourteen of the reported COVID cases in January are faculty.  The number of absent faculty has been climbing all week.  Today, January 5th, we had 17 faculty members absent at the High School and 12 at the Middle School.  This is up from a total of 12 absent staff members combined for the Middle and High Schools on Monday, 1/3. We will continue to monitor both of staff and student absence numbers over the coming days.  Our goal is to remain fully in-person as long as it is possible; however, if these trends continue we may need to consider closing school if we cannot adequately staff our schools. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, days closed due to COVID will be considered the same as a weather-related closure and will need to be made up at the end of the year in June.

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 12/15/21

COVID Case Report

Our COVID case numbers continue to reflect the surge that is going on in Massachusetts and nationally.  The number of new positive COVID cases for the two-week period from December 2nd through December 15th has climbed to 16.  This is up from 10 for the preceding two-week period.  We are now up to a total of 59 cases for the 2021-2022 school year.  The following chart depicts the number of cases by week and reflects the upward trend in COVID cases since the beginning of November.

The following chart shows the case counts by school and month.  We continue to see an increase in the number of positive cases at the Middle School relative to the number of total cases.  Nine of the 18 (50%) positive cases in December are Middle School Students. 

Students who are close contacts to any COVID case continue to be notified of this by their schools.  Fully vaccinated students who are close contacts are exempt from quarantining and are asked to monitor for symptoms.  Unvaccinated close contacts who remain asymptomatic are also invited to participate in our Test and Stay Program.  Since the beginning of our Test and Stay Program in September, 121 individuals have taken 169 tests.  We have had three positive tests of the 169 administered which is 1.7%.  One of these three was a false-positive result.  Because of our Test and Stay program, 118 individuals have been able to remain in school after being exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual.

COVID Vaccination Update

I’m pleased to report that our COVID vaccination rates have increased to a total of 81.2%.  This is up from 78.35% on November 30th.  The Middle School vaccination rate has increased to 74.29%, which is up from 69.75% on November 30th

Masco Vaccination Rates* as of 12/14/21November 16, 2021November 30, 2021December 7, 2021December 14, 2021
MS Students169.41%69.75%73.78%74.29%
HS Students179.87%80.12%82.34%82.53%
All Staff288.78%89.14%89.14%90.16%
Total77.05%78.35%80.78%81.20%

Because we have reached the 80% vaccination threshold set by Commissioner Riley, we have applied for a waiver to allow vaccinated individuals to attend school without a mask.  We expect to hear back from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding this application by the end of this week.  If the waiver is approved, we will then begin discussions with the Boxford Board of Health regarding their Public Health Order that all individuals in public buildings wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.  I spoke with Kendell Longo, Public Health Agent for the Town of Boxford, today to let her know that we anticipate receiving the waiver from DESE this week and that we will be reaching out to the Boxford Board of Heath after we receive the waiver.  As we still have many details to work out, we should not anticipate any changes to our mask mandate until later in January at the earliest.

Again, our data show that a much higher percentage of positive COVID cases at Masconomet are in our unvaccinated individuals.  Based on our 81.2% vaccination rate, unvaccinated individuals at Masconomet are infected at a rate that is roughly 7.5 times greater than that of vaccinated individuals.  (Vaccinated rate of infection is 21 per 1624 vaccinated individuals or 1.2%.  Unvaccinated rate of infection is 34 per 376 unvaccinated individuals or 9%)  The clear message is to get vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Vaccinations do make a difference.

Masco Vaccination Status, 12/15/21Number of Positive Cases
Unvaccinated34
Vaccinated21
No Vaccination Data Available 4
Total Positive Cases59

Use of At-Home COVID Test Kits

I wanted to share some information that comes from our Community Public Health Nurse, Julia Lobel.  According to the MA DPH and DESE, if your child or a member in your household tests positive on an at-home COVID test kit, such as those sold over the counter at pharmacies, your child, or member of your household, must isolate for a minimum of 10 days and seek confirmatory PCR testing, ideally within 48 hours of home testing. All at-home COVID test kits are not created equally and are not official test results, so they are not reliable for use in the school community.  At-home test results are also not reported in the state public health system; therefore, the local board of health is unable to follow up with cases and perform contact tracing base on an at-home positive test result. Your child cannot be cleared to return to school using these test kits and they may put your child in an extended quarantine.  If you have specific questions regarding this protocol please reach out directly to your school’s Health Office.

Booster Clinic for Masconomet Employees

I want to thank Julia Lobel and the Public Health Departments of Boxford, Middleton and Topsfield for arranging a vaccine booster clinic for Masconomet Employees.  The clinic will take place during the school day on Friday, December 17th. All Masconomet employees received an email earlier this week with instructions on how to register for a booster shot appointment.

Happy Holidays!

Our last day of school for 2021 will be on Wednesday, December 22nd.  Schools will re-open on Monday January 3rd.  I want to wish everyone a happy holiday and a happy and healthy 2022.

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 12/1/21

COVID Case Report

On Monday, November 22nd, DESE Commissioner Riley held a conference call with superintendents.  During this call, he advised us that we should be expecting a spike in cases between Thanksgiving and the holiday break.  He also reminded us to continue to follow the COVID protocols issued by DESE and the Department of Public Health and to consult with the DESE’s Rapid COVID Response Team if we felt it necessary. 

At Masconomet, we have been experiencing this predicted rise in COVID cases since the beginning of November.  We have had a total of 43 positive cases since the beginning of school in September.  The following chart tracks the number of cases by week and shows the trend of increasing cases:

The following chart shows the case counts by school and month.  We are seeing an increase in the number of positive cases at the Middle School relative to the number of total cases.  Six of the 13 (46%) positive cases in November were Middle School Students. We will continue to monitor this situation.

District Vaccination Rates

Our District Vaccination Rates have increased slightly over the past month; however, we still have not reached the overall 80% rate needed to apply for a mask waiver from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Masconomet Vaccination Rates, November 2 – November 30, 2021*
 November 2, 2021November 9, 2021November 16, 2021November 30, 2021
MS Students169.24%69.24%69.41%69.75%
HS Students179.64%79.62%79.87%80.12%
All Staff288.41%88.41%88.78%89.14%
Total77.82%77.81%78.05%78.35.%
* – Methodology follows DESE Policy on Vaccination Thresholds dated September 27, 2021. 1 – Source: Direct data feed from Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS). 2 – Source: Survey of District Employees requesting Proof of Vaccination Status.

Masconomet COVID Cases by Vaccination Status

We have also seen a 50% higher proportion of COVID Cases from individuals who are not vaccinated:

Vaccination Status1Number of Positive Cases
Unvaccinated26
Vaccinated13
No Data4
Total Positive Cases43
1. Source: Boxford Health Department Reports of positive COVID cases to the Masconomet Regional School District, 9/1 – 12/1/21

The clear message in this table is to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals account for twice the number of positive COVID cases at Masconomet. Vaccinated individuals are also exempt from needing to quarantine if they are a close contact of a COVID-positive individual. Vaccines are now available for anyone ages 5 and over. To find a vaccine appointment near you go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/

Delayed Opening on Monday, December 6th

Both the Middle and High Schools will be starting at 10:00 on Monday, December 6th.  Teachers will have a professional development program on this morning from 7:35 to 9:45.  Teachers will choose from a menu of activities for this morning.  The list of options includes:

  • “Anxiety and School Performance,” presented by the Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth.
  • “Introduction to Newsela,” presented by Newsela staff.  Newsela is an online teaching resource.
  • “Newsela and Culturally Responsive Teaching” presented by Newsela staff.
  • “Newsela and Guided Inquiry,” presented by Newsela staff.
  • “Introduction to Formative,”  presented by Ben Hodges and Ryan King.  Formative is an online assessment software package.
  • “Strategies for Struggling Students,” presented by Meg Smith from our Student Services Department.
  • “Rethinking Grading” presented by Dr. Carabatsos and Dr. McManus
  • “Co-Teaching Pair Meetings.”  Classroom teachers and special educators who co-teach will use this time for planning instruction.

Search Process for Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Position

As I announced on November 17th, Assistant Superintendent Patty Bullard has announced her retirement.  We will follow the process listed below to identify her successor:

  1. Advertise position beginning December 6, 2021 with applications due January 7, 2022.
  2. Interview Team developed during December and January.  Interview Team will be co-chaired by Dr. Carabatsos and Dr. McManus.
  3. Resume screening will be done by Executive Leadership Team from January 11 through January 14, 2022.
  4. Initial Interviews will be conducted by Interview Team during the week of January 24th.
    • Interview Team will forward at least two finalists to the Superintendent.
  5. Second interviews and visits to Masconomet for finalists held during teh week of January 11, 2022.
    • Masconomet visit includes:
      • Meeting with faculty and staff.
      • Public meeting with parents in the evening.
      • Meeting with students during the school day.
      • Meeting with Department Heads, Executive Leadership Team and other key staff members at Masconomet.
      • All individuals meeting with the finalists will be asked to provide written feedback to the Superintendent.
    • The Superintendent will conduct a second interview with each finalist.
  6. The Superintendent will conduct site visits and reference checks for finalists during the week of February 7, 2022.
    • Superintendent selects site visit team and leads each site visit.
  7. The position will be offered to preferred candidate by February 18, 2022.
  8. The Superintendent presents his recommendation of the preferred candidate at to the School Committee at the March 9, 2022 School Committee Meeting.
  9. The new Assistant Superintendent for Student Services will begin at Masconomet on July 1, 2022.

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 11/17/21

Response to Incidents of Racism and Homophobia by Massachusetts High School Student-Athletes

Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard stories in the media about multiple allegations of racist and homophobic conduct committed by high school student-athletes from across Massachusetts.  The conduct by student-athletes from Danvers, Georgetown, Duxbury, and Xavierian Brothers to name a few of the schools involved in these allegations, is completely unacceptable and has no place in our schools or in our society.  What is even more troubling about many of these stories is the reported behaviors of the adults involved, who through their dereliction of their responsibility to properly supervise these student-athletes, or their unwillingness to intervene and address these behaviors, has allowed this toxic culture to perpetuate.  Unfortunately, the pervasive nature of these stories shows us that we have much work to do in creating the schools and society that we would like to have.

I want to reiterate our commitment to ensuring the Masconomet Regional School District is “a learning community where all members feel safe, respected and supported in examining identity, navigating difficult topics, developing critical thinking and listening skills, gaining perspective, and engaging in thoughtful discussions that improve emotional intelligence, growth mindset, empathy, care, and compassion.” (Masconomet School Committee Equity and Anti-Racism Resolution)

Over the last several days, I’ve had several conversations with our Athletic Director, Mr. John Daileanes, regarding how we are ensuring our culture is both positive and inclusive for all students and staff.  We’ve discussed our ongoing training for staff and students and our procedures around the supervision of our student-athletes.  Our work towards ensuring a positive culture includes:

  • Requiring all of our coaches to complete the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) training programs on Implicit Bias and Bullying, Hazing, and Inappropriate Behaviors
  • Reviewing expectations for locker room supervision and for student behavior during a meeting with all winter sport coaches.
  • Reviewing the Massachusetts Anti-Hazing Statute with all of our student-athletes. Coaches are required to submit an Anti-Hazing Form to the Athletic Department attesting this review has occurred.
  • The Northeastern Conference (NEC) athletic departments and student-athlete leaders also held a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training on September 25th at Swampscott High School.  Seven students from Masconomet were in attendance.

Any student or staff member who experiences or witnesses any acts of intolerance, harassment or bullying is encouraged to report this to a member of our district leadership team.  Individuals who wish to make an anonymous report can do so through our Safe School Helpline at: https://www.safeschoolhelpline.com/ 

Conversations on Race with Lisa MacDonald at the Masco High School Library on Thursday, November 18th at 7:30PM.

The Tri-Town Council is sponsoring “Conversations on Race” on Thursday, November 18 in the High School Library at 7:30 PM.  Lisa MacDonald is Director of Equity Compliance at MassBay Community College where she serves as the institution’s Title IX Coordinator and Affirmative Action Officer. In this program, we look forward to exploring the question “What can I do?” as it’s a question many are asking right now. Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, perhaps you’ve asked others. This program provides participants with an opportunity to discuss this exact question, listen to different perspectives, and better understand the implications of intention versus impact this question may have. Resources, book recommendations, and takeaway materials will be offered.  To register to attend, please go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf4Cj4zV_L5FlhJdZ-ogODNQ__dXRxX1sN9ewo0Ol9nCYd4WA/viewform

COVID-19 Case Report

The number of COVID-19 cases in the District continue to remain low overall, but are slowly increasing relative to the number of cases in October.

COVID Case Counts by School and Month, 11/17/21New Cases
SeptemberOctoberNovemberTotal
High School Students164525
Middle School Students1203
Faculty1113
Totals187631
COVID Case Counts by WeekNew Cases
9/8/21 – 9/15/218
9/16/21 – 9/22/216
9/23/21 – 9/29/214
9/30/21 – 10/6/211
10/7/21 – 10/13/213
10/14/21 – 10/20/212
10/21/21 – 10/27/210
10/28/21 – 11/3/211
11/4/21 – 11/10/213
11/11/21 – 11/17/213
Total31

Masconomet Vaccination Rates

The percentage of vaccinated staff and students continues to hold steady around 78%.  We are still below the 80% threshold needed to apply for a waiver from the DESE Mask Mandate.

Masconomet Vaccination Rates*
GroupOct. 5, 2021Oct. 12, 2021Oct. 19, 2021Oct. 26, 2021Nov. 2, 2021Nov. 9, 2021Nov. 16, 2021
MS Students (1)68.74%68.91%69.08%69.08%69.24%69.24%69.41%
HS Students (1)79.14%79.22%79.41%79.69%79.64%79.62%79.87%
All District Staff (2)80.79%83.44%85.53%88.08%88.41%88.41%88.78%
All MASCO76.22%76.72%77.21%77.75%77.82%77.81%78.05%

* – Methodology follows DESE Policy on Vaccination Thresholds dated September 27, 2021

(1) Source: Direct data feed from Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS

(2) Source: Survey of District Employees requesting Proof of Vaccination Status

KINDNESS FRIDAY, November 26th 12:00 to 3pm (The day after Thanksgiving) Tri-Town Council – 7 Grove Street, The Station Building

Join TTC, The Tri-Town Rock Band, and community volunteers to spread some KINDNESS! TTC will be collecting gift cards of all amounts to share with families in need throughout the Tri Towns and beyond as part of the Community Assistance Program (CAP). All cards are welcome and appreciated, but Market Basket, Stop & Shop, Target, Walmart, and CVS are preferred. Also, in collaboration with community partner The Community Giving Tree, TTC will be collecting packages of diapers, all sizes, and wipes. Please stop by the TTC Office at 7 Grove Street, The Red Station Building and enjoy the music of the Tri Town Rock Band, take home your own decorated Kindness Rock and other crafts.  For more information, please go to https://storage.googleapis.com/pt05-2/messages/attachments/1253680d80d4069ed6b475383fb5d9f3/2021Community_Assistance_Request_Form_%25281%2529.docx.pdf

Asst. Superintendent Patty Bullard is Retiring

It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing that Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Patty Bullard is retiring from her position effective August 31, 2022.  Patty has spent the last nine years as the Assistant Superintendent for Student Services at Masconomet.  In her time here, she has proven herself to be a tireless advocate for our most vulnerable population of students.  Patty has also been an invaluable member of my Executive Leadership Team over the past three years.  Her guidance and insight have heIped us navigate this most difficult of times. On behalf of the entire Masconomet Community, I would like to thank Patty for her service to the district.

We will be launching our search for Patty’s successor at the beginning of December, with the advertisement of the position.  Per Massachusetts General Law Ch. 71 § 59, the School Committee ultimately appoints an assistant superintendent at the recommendation of the superintendent.  My timeline for this search is to have a recommended candidate presented to the School Committee at our March 2nd meeting. 

I’d like to wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

School Cancellation Notification Procedures

October 25, 2020

As we approach the winter season and the possibility of inclement weather, I wanted to share with you our procedures for communicating school cancellations and delayed openings.  These procedures have been developed in an effort to balance the needs of staff members who commute to work from a distance and families of students who may need to arrange childcare services for the day with the requests of families who do not want an “invasive” 5:30 AM phone call. 

In order to balance these needs, school cancellation or delayed opening announcements will first be communicated through “passive” means, such as Twitter and local news media outlets and then later through direct telephone contact through our Blackboard Communication System.

Once the decision is made to cancel or delay the start of school, it will be communicated through the following outlets:

  1. All Media Communications will be sent out as soon as a decision has been made regardless of the time, and should be before 5:30 AM on the morning of the cancellation/delay.
  2. Twitter:  follow @mascosuper.  This will always be the first place for school cancellation and delayed opening announcements.
  3. WBZ TV (Channel 4) and WBZ Radio 1030 AM.  www.cbsboston.com
  4. WCVB TV (Channel 5) www.wcvb.com
  5. WHDH TV (Channel 7) www.whdh.com
  6. WYCN (Channel 10) www.nbcboston.com
  7. WFXT TV (Channel 25) www.myfoxboston.com
  8. NECN www.necn.com
  9. Masconomet Website on the front page under “Superintendent News and Announcements.” www.masconomet.org
  10. Direct Contact Communications through Blackboard via telephone and email will be sent out prior to 8:30 PM if a decision to close or delay school has been reached on the evening prior and at 6:00 AM if a decision is made on the morning of the cancellation or delayed opening.

Please remember that conditions may vary widely across the three communities during a weather event.  Parents always have the final authority to make the decision that it is unsafe for their child to travel to school.

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, October 20, 2021

COVID Case Update

As of October 20, 2021, Masconomet has the following number of reported COVID-19 Cases:

SeptemberOctoberTotal
High School Students15318
Middle School Students224
Faculty112
Totals18624

Our case numbers continue to remain low relative to September:

Week of:Cases
9/8/21 – 9/15/218
9/16/21 – 9/22/216
9/23/21 – 9/29/213
9/30/21 – 10/6/212
10/7/21 – 10/13/213
10/14/21 – 10/20/212
Total24

COVID Vaccination Rates as of October 19, 2021

Vaccination Rate*
GroupOctober 5, 2021October 12, 2021October 19, 2021
MS Students (1)68.74%68.91%69.08%
HS Students (1)79.14%79.22%79.41%
All District Staff (2)80.79%83.44%85.53%
All MASCO76.22%76.72%77.21%
* – Methodology follows DESE Policy on Vaccination Thresholds dated September 27, 2021(1) Source: Direct data feed from Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS)(2) Source: Survey of District Employees requesting Proof of Vaccination Status

Mask Mandate Remains in Place

Since Masconomet have not reached the 80% vaccination threshold, we are not eligible for a waiver from DESE to allow vaccinated individuals to attend school unmasked.  The current mask mandate is in place through November 1st.  DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley has told us that he will be announcing his decision early next week as to whether this mandate will remain in place past November 1st.  We will continue to update our vaccination information and work with the Boxford Board of Health regarding any plans relative to masking. 

Test and Stay and Symptomatic Testing Programs Update

As of October 19, 2021, we have administered a total of 29 tests under the Test and Stay Program to 18 individuals.  Under Test and Stay, unvaccinated individuals who are identified as in-school close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual are allowed to remain in school as long as they take a daily COVID-19 test and follow other health and safety protocols.  We have had no positive test results through the Test and Stay Program. Our relatively high vaccination rates have created a situation where we have very few unvaccinated in-school close contacts who are eligible for Test and Stay when we do have a COVID-19 positive individual in the building.

On October 5th, we also began testing individuals who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day through DESE’s Symptomatic Testing Program.  Between October 5th and October 19th, we have tested 45 individuals who were symptomatic in school, with only one positive result.  This individual was sent for a PCR test, which ultimately produced a negative result.  These two testing programs, Test and Stay and Symptomatic, provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have proved to be a valuable tool in ensuring the safety of our students and staff.

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee

October 7, 2021

COVID Case Update

As of today, October 6, 2021, Masconomet has the following number of reported COVID Cases:

New Covid Cases for September and October 2021

 SeptemberOctoberTotal
High School Students15015
Middle School Students213
Faculty101
Totals18119

Our case numbers have been trending downward since the opening of school:

New COVID Cases by Week, 9/8 – 10/6

 New COVID-19 Cases
9/8/21 – 9/15/218
9/16/21 – 9/22/216
9/23/21 – 9/29/213
9/30/21 – 10/6/212
Total19

COVID Testing Programs Update

On September 21st, Masconomet, in conjunction with the Tri-Town School Union, started a Test and Stay Program for students who are unvaccinated, in-school close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual.  Once Dr. Morrison and I realized that we could not rely on resources from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we decided to implement a testing center at Masconomet High School for all Masconomet Middle and High School Students and for Tri-Town Union students in grades 3-6.  Combining what was potentially 8 testing sites (6 for the TTU and 2 for Masco) into one central location allowed us to maximize what resources we had and get our program started as quickly as possible.

For the first two weeks of operation, this site was staffed from 6:50 to 8:30 AM by the senior leadership from both the Masconomet Regional District and the Tri-Town School Union, including Masconomet’s Asst. Superintendents Jeff Sands and Patty Bullard, Asst. Director of Student Services Brad Denton, Director of Information Technology Vin Ruocco, and me, and Superintendent Scott Morrison, Asst. Superintendents Steve Greenberg, and Matt LeCava, Nurse Leader Brianna Posanka and Admin Asst. Katie Glynn from the Tri-Town Union.  Our local public health departments supplemented this administrative staff with Public Health Nurses Julia Lobel and Joan Fitzpatrick, who conducted the actual testing.  I’d like to thank all of these individuals for going way above and beyond the normal call of duty to get the testing center up and running.

By the end of the first week, Dr. Morrison and I were able to make our concerns known to leadership at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and CIC Health, the company hired by DESE to run the school-based testing programs in Massachusetts, and received the staffing from CIC necessary to operate our testing center without a reliance on Masconomet or Tri-Town personnel.  On Monday, October 4th, we were able to turn the primary responsibility for operating the testing center over to personnel from CIC Health with one administrator from either the Tri-Town or Masconomet in attendance to provide support.  In the almost three weeks the Test and Stay Program has been in operation, sixteen Masconomet students have been able to continue to attend classes during the period after their in-school exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual.

Working with CIC Health, we have also been able to institute a Symptomatic Testing Program for Masconomet and the Tri-Town Union.  Personnel from CIC Health are now stationed at Masconomet High School during the school day and are ready to test any symptomatic individual from Masconomet Middle or High School or at any one of the Tri-Town Elementary Schools.  This past Monday, I sent families a link to an online consent form.   https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma?district=Masconomet  Completing the consent form is required for students to participate in both the Test and Stay and Symptomatic Testing programs.  Completing the online form ahead of time will allow students to enter either program without having to wait until we receive parent consent.

Finally, the simplest way to remain in school after any exposure to COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.  Fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual are exempt from any quarantine or testing protocols as long as they remain asymptomatic.  Vaccines are widely available in Massachusetts.  Go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ to find a vaccination site near you. 

DESE Mask Mandate

On Monday, September 27th, DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley announced the extension of the mask mandate for students in Massachusetts K-12 public schools through November 1st.  The Commissioner also announced that schools that have reached 80% vaccination rate in both staff and students may allow vaccinated individuals to attend school unmasked.  This could take effect as soon as October 15th after a school certified to DESE that it had reached the 80% vaccination threshold. 

Masconomet has been in the process of gathering vaccination data for staff and students through the month of September.  Student information is currently being imported from the Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS) and is updated on a weekly basis.  District staff have been asked to provide a copy of their immunization card to our Human Resource Department.  The table below shows Masconomet’s vaccination rates as of October 5, 2021.

Masconomet Vaccination Rates as of October 5, 2021

Group Vaccination Rate
MS Students (1)68.74%
HS Students (1)79.14%
All District Staff (2)80.79%
All MASCO76.22%
* – Methodology follows DESE Policy on Vaccination Thresholds dated September 27, 2021. (1) Source: Direct data feed from Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS) (2) Source: Survey of District Employees requesting Proof of Vaccination Status 

Another factor in our ability to allow vaccinated students to attend school without masks is the Boxford Board of Public Health’s Emergency Order Requiring Face Coverings.  I’ve inquired with the Boxford Board of Health as to whether their Order would supersede DESE’s 80% threshold.  On October 4th, I received a letter from Dick Taylor, the Chair of the Boxford Board of Health, informing me that the Board of Health has approved an exemption from the Emergency Order Requiring Face Coverings for Masconomet as long as the following conditions are met: 

  1. That Masco receive written approval from DESE allowing unmasking of vaccinated students and staff. We will require a copy of  that written approval.
  2. That, as made clear in the DESE Communication of 27 September 2021, unvaccinated students and staff shall continue to be required to wear masks.  We will require your confirmation that this will be done and how you will enforce this requirement.

Enforcing the requirement that unvaccinated students continue to wear masks is going to be an issue going forward.  On our October 1st conference call with DESE, superintendents asked DESE for guidance on how we could enforce this requirement without violating student privacy rights by identifying unvaccinated students.  We were told to expect more information from DESE on this as we get closer to October 15th

Congratulations to High School Guidance Counselor Nick Ely

Masconomet High School Guidance Counselor Nick Ely was awarded the 2021 Yale Educator Award.  The Yale Educator Recognition Program recognizes outstanding educators from around the world who have supported and inspired their students to achieve at high levels. Matriculating students to Yale University are invited to nominate high school educators for this award, and a committee composed of Yale admissions officers reviews the nominations individually and designates recipients.  Of this year’s 305 nominees, who represent 38 states and 17 countries, 50 teachers and 21 counselors were selected to receive the award. Mr. Ely was nominated by Justin Crosby of the Class of 2021.  Congratulations, Mr. Ely!

Parent Consent for Test and Stay and Symptomatic Testing Programs

Dear Masconomet Parent/Guardian,

As I begin this update on the status of our testing programs, I need to emphasize that the simplest way to remain in school after any exposure to COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual are exempt from any quarantine or testing protocols as long as they remain asymptomatic.  Vaccines are widely available in Massachusetts.  Go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ to find a vaccination site near you. 

For the past two weeks, Masconomet has been hosting a shared “Test and Stay” Program with the Tri-Town School Union.  Test and Stay allows unvaccinated students who have had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 while at school to stay in school if the unvaccinated student is not showing symptoms. Instead of needing to quarantine and miss school, these unvaccinated students take a daily rapid test while they remain in school as long as they are not symptomatic. Students participate in Test and Stay for at least five days after they may have been exposed.  Our Test and Stay program has allowed 16 Masconomet students to continue to attend school after being identified as close contacts since the program began on September 21st.  

In the next few days, we will be expanding our testing program to include symptomatic testing.  Symptomatic testing is used when any student, vaccinated or unvaccinated, is showing symptoms of COVID-19 during school; students should not come to school if they are feeling sick while at home. Some symptoms of the virus look identical to other illnesses like the cold or flu, and this test tells us whether any symptomatic student has COVID-19 or not. This is a rapid test, and we receive the results of this test within 15 minutes. If a student has minimal symptoms and tests negative, they can remain in school.

Parent consent is required for student participation in both the Test and Stay and Symptomatic Testing programs.  Having prior consent is especially necessary for symptomatic testing as it allows us to test a student without having to wait for a parent to come to school to provide consent.  Our testing provider, CIC Health, has created an online form in order for you to provide your consent for your child to participate in these programs.  The form can be accessed through this link:  https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma?district=Masconomet

Please note that the consent form asks for consent to participate in all three testing programs offered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, namely “Test and Stay,” “Symptomatic,” and “Routine COVID Safety Checks,” formerly known as “pooled testing.”  At this time, Masconomet is only participating in “Test and Stay” and “Symptomatic Testing.”  If it is determined at a future date that “Routine COVID Safety Checks” are implemented, we will re-send a communication to families to determine who may want to opt-in/opt-out of that specific program.  Said differently, although you are providing consent for all three testing programs when you complete the consent form, we are not doing “Routine COVID Safety Checks” at this time and will reconnect with families to determine their consent for that program if/when it is implemented.

Thank you in advance for providing your consent for your child to participate in our symptomatic and Test and Stay programs.  Participating in these programs will ensure your child misses a minimum amount of learning time if they develop COVID-like symptoms, or are identified as an in-school close contact, and we are continuing to provide the safest environment possible for all students and staff.  If you have any questions about these programs, please review the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s COVID Testing Page for more information.

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent

Testing Program Update, 9/16/21

Dear Masconomet Community, 

As I begin this update on the status of our testing programs, I need to emphasize that the simplest way to remain in school after any exposure to COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual are exempt from any quarantine or testing protocols as long as they remain asymptomatic.  Vaccines are widely available in Massachusetts.  Go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ to find a vaccination site near you. 

The Masconomet Regional District applied to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s “Test and Stay” and “Symptomatic Testing” Programs on Wednesday, August 11, 2021.  We received notice that we had been accepted to these programs on Thursday, August 12.  The “Test and Stay” Program allows a student or staff member who was a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual in school to continue to attend school as long as they submit to a daily rapid COVID Test, remain asymptomatic and follow additional health and safety protocols while in school.  The “Symptomatic Testing” Program allows any staff member or student who develops COVID-19 symptoms during the school day to take a rapid COVID-19 test to assist in deciding whether the individual should remain in school or be sent home for further evaluation.

DESE has awarded the contract for running all Massachusetts Testing Programs to an outside vendor, CIC Health.  CIC Health is now in the process of hiring the staff necessary to provide the services promised by DESE.    In signing up for the Test and Stay and Symptomatic Testing programs, DESE promised to supply the resources necessary to run the program with minimal support from us.  We would be provided a Program Coordinator as the primary point of contact for the district, the personnel necessary for conducting the onsite testing of students and staff, the necessary materials, including the testing kits, and the necessary training for our staff on any aspect of the program, including the administration of the actual rapid tests and the software for collecting parent permission for testing students.  We applied to participate in these testing programs based on this level of support offered by DESE as we do not have the personnel or the resources in-house to conduct these programs on our own.

As of today, September 16, 2021, we have had minimal response from CIC Health regarding the details of the testing programs we signed up for in August.  This is despite repeated emails and phone calls from Masconomet to both CIC Health and to DESE over the past several weeks.  At 5:00 PM on September 15, I received an email from CIC with the subject “COVID Testing Welcome Email and Program Coordinator Introduction.”  This email contained two email addresses for our Program Coordinators.  This morning, I sent an email to both of the supplied addresses asking for immediate assistance and am waiting for a response.

Once we hear from our Program Coordinators, there are many details that will need to be worked out before we are able to begin our Test and Stay Program.  We will need to collect permission from parents to be able to test students.  We will also need to ensure that CIC has sufficient personnel assigned to us to conduct the daily testing of students and staff at Masconomet that is part of the Test and Stay program, and that we have the necessary supplies and routines in place to conduct this testing.  In order to have all of this in place, I anticipate that it will take several weeks before we are able to implement our testing programs.  

I will provide updates as more information regarding our testing programs becomes available.  I understand and share your frustration that this is not getting done sooner.  We are doing everything in our power to implement this program as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent

Volunteer Opportunity: Masconomet Regional School Committee

The Masconomet Regional School Committee and the Boxford Select Board are seeking a Boxford resident to fill a recently vacated position on the School Committee.  The selected volunteer will fill this open position until the next general election, which will be held in early May 2022.  

The School Committee is responsible for establishing educational goals and policies for the schools in the district consistent with the requirements of law and statewide goals and standards by MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), reviewing and approving budgets for public education in the district, and selecting and evaluating the Superintendent.   

The appointment will be made by the Boxford Select Board and Boxford Representatives to the Masconomet School Committee.

Interested residents should submit a letter of intent by 5:00 PM on Tuesday, September 21, 2021.  Please send all materials to: Masconomet Regional District Administration Office, 20 Endicott Rd, Boxford, MA 01921, Attn: Carolyn Miller, or by email to Ms. Carolyn Miller at cmiller@masconomet.org