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

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, September 1, 2021

Welcome to the 2021-2022 School Year!

The Masconomet Regional District officially kicked off the 2021-2022 school year this morning with the return of our faculty to the District.  We began the morning meeting as an entire staff in-person for the first time in two years.  Our morning program included a slideshow of faculty members’ favorite summer pictures, recognition of our faculty who earned Professional Status and Master Teacher Status this year and remarks from the Superintendent.  Our keynote speaker was Dr. Chris Willard, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in mindfulness practices with students.  Dr. Willard’s talk provided our faculty with some tools for managing their own stress and that of our students.  He also discussed the concept of “post-traumatic growth,” or the growth that individuals can develop after experiencing a traumatic event.

Our 7th and 9th grade students will report to school on Thursday, September 2nd for orientation.  All students will return to school on Wednesday, September 8th.  Information regarding High School bus schedules is available at: https://www.masconomet.org/domain/67  Middle School bus information can be found at:  https://www.masconomet.org/domain/107

Mask Mandate Information

On August 25, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley issued the following guidance to all public K-12 school districts in Massachusetts relative to the wearing of masks in school:

Effective immediately, public school students (age 5 and above) and staff in all grades are required to wear masks indoors in schools, except as noted below. Masks are not required when outdoors. All visitors are also expected to wear a mask in school buildings. 

  • The mask requirement will be in place until at least October 1, 2021. The Commissioner will revisit the requirement in the near future to revise it as warranted by public health data.
  • Students and staff who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, and students who cannot wear a mask for behavioral reasons, are exempted from the requirement.  Documentation will be required in order to substantiate a medical or behavioral exemption.  Families who wish to seek an exemption based on medical reasons should contact their school nurse.  Families who wish to seek an exemption based on behavioral reasons should contact Asst. Superintendent for Student Services Patty Bullard. 
  • There are no other grounds for an exemption from the DESE mandate.  Students who arrive at school without a mask will be offered a disposable mask to wear.  Continued refusal to wear a mask may lead to discipline as per the school’s Student Handbook.
  • The mask requirement applies when students and staff are indoors at school, except when eating, drinking, or during mask breaks.
  • Mask breaks will be scheduled for students in both the Middle and High Schools.
  • Masks may also be removed indoors when necessary to participate in elective classes, such as the use of wind instruments in band. When traditional masks cannot be worn, districts should consider additional mitigations, such as the use of instrument masks (masks with a slit or hole cut for the mouthpiece) or bell covers, along with physical distancing or outdoor classes as feasible.
  • Masks are required for any sports-related activity for student-athletes and coaches when indoors, in alignment with guidance provided by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
  • Masks should be provided by the student/family. Disposable masks will be made available for students who need them.
  • By federal public health order, all students and staff are required to wear a mask on school buses.

Commissioner Riley has stated that the mask mandate will be in effect at least through October 1, 2021.  At that time the Commissioner will decide as to whether the mandate will be continued based on public health conditions.  If the public health conditions support relaxing the mask mandate, the Commissioner has stated that schools where over 80% of both staff and students are fully vaccinated would no longer be subject to the mask requirement.  Anyone who is 12 or older is currently eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.  Vaccines are the best way to protect against yourself, your family and the community from COVID-19.  Becoming vaccinated also provides students and staff with the benefit of not having to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual as long as they remain symptom-free.  Vaccines are free for anyone who lives in Massachusetts.  For information about vaccine appointments, please go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ 

COVID-19 Protocols

Masconomet’s Protocols for COVID-19 can be found at:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pbeM2sQ2a8HcaDVkIpGmDQD-V1uo2Ild/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=105645892378663609837&rtpof=true&sd=true  This document will be updated as we receive new information from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Test and Stay Program

Masconomet has been accepted into the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s “Test and Stay” program for the 2021-2022 school year.  We are now waiting to be assigned a Program Coordinator from CIC Health, the company chosen by DESE to run this initiative.  Once it is up and running, this program will allow unvaccinated students and staff to avoid having to quarantine if they are a close contact of a COVID-19 individual as long as they remain asymptomatic and submit to daily COVID Testing for at least five days.  CIC Health will be responsible for collecting permission from students and staff who are willing to opt into this program and will be conducting the testing onsite at Masconomet.  This program will not be running for the opening of school next week.  We will send out more information on participation when we receive it from CIC Health and DESE.

Drama Class Changes

Ms. Rachel Furgiuele, our Drama Teacher, resigned her position at Masconomet over the summer.  We have attempted to hire a licensed educator to fill the position, but have not been able to secure an individual who can commit to the position.  Middle School students who elected Acting & Stage Craft in grade 7 will be enrolled into the Chorus class that meets during the same period.  We’ve reassigned a current teacher to teach the Middle School Public Speaking course.  High School Students who had signed up for Drama classes will be rescheduled into other courses or study.  We will continue to advertise for an educator for this position.

Congratulations to Ursina Amsler

Middle School Art Teacher Ursina Amsler has been named the Massachusetts Art Education Association Middle Level Art Educator of the Year Award for 2022.  Congratulations to Ms. Amsler for this well-deserved recognition of the great work you do every day with our students.

Masconomet Opening Update, August 25, 2021

Dear Friends,

On August 24th, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved the request of Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeff Riley to grant him the authority to issue a state-wide indoor mask mandate for all staff, students and visitors in all K-12 schools in Massachusetts.  I expect that the Commissioner will issue this mandate in the next few days, and that the mandate will be accompanied with instructions for schools to implement it.  When the Commissioner issues this mandate, all schools in Massachusetts, including Masconomet, will be required to follow it.  The BESE vote also granted the Commissioner the authority to remove the mandate for middle and high schools that have reached 80% vaccination rate for staff and students as soon as October 1st.  I will be sharing more information around expectations for wearing masks in our schools as soon as we receive more guidance from DESE. 

As part of its COVID mitigation plan, DESE has also announced that it will continue and expand on its COVID testing programs for this year.  For the 2021-2022 school year, Masconomet has applied for and been accepted into two of these state testing programs:  “Symptomatic Testing” and “Test and Stay.”  In “Symptomatic Testing,” students or staff who develop COVID-related symptoms while in school will be given a Binax-NOW rapid antigen test to determine whether they may safely remain on site or need further diagnostic testing to confirm if they have COVID.  In “Test and Stay,” unvaccinated students and staff who are identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive individual and are not exhibiting COVID symptoms will be tested in school for up to seven days after exposure using the Binax-NOW rapid antigen test.  These students and staff will be allowed to continue to attend school as long as they test negative and do not exhibit COVID symptoms.  I will be forwarding more details about these programs, including the forms for collecting consent to participate, as we receive it from DESE.  For more information on the DESE’s COVID testing programs please go to https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/testing/

Finally, I cannot emphasize more the importance of getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19.  Being vaccinated will provide our students with the fewest number of COVID-related restrictions in school.  Vaccinated students who remain asymptomatic are exempt from quarantining or testing if they are identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive individual.  Reaching an 80% vaccination rate for students and staff will also allow us to relax the mask requirement as soon as October 1st.  The most recent Update from the Boxford Board of Health shows that we’re very close to meeting this 80% target at both Masconomet High School and Masconomet Middle School, but still have some way to go.  “As of August 17, in Boxford, 77% ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated and 92% of ages 16-19, In Topsfield, 71% of 12 to 15 and 96% of 16 to 19 years. In Middleton, 56% of 12-15 years and 72% of 16-19 years.”  Vaccinations for anyone age 12 and over are free and are readily available.  To book an appointment, please go to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/

I’m looking forward to the return of all students to Masconomet on September 8th!

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent

Welcome to the 2021-2022 School Year

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year.  We will begin the school year full-time, in-person for all students.  We will welcome our 7th and 9th grade students for orientation on Thursday, September 2nd.  All students will begin classes on Wednesday, September 8th.  Our Middle and High School Administration will be contacting you later this month with specifics regarding our orientation programs and opening of school.

On July 31st, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeff Riley provided Massachusetts School Districts with guidance relative to opening schools for the 2021-2022 school year.  This guidance was developed in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).  After reviewing the DESE and DPH-issued guidance with our local public health officials from Boxford, Middleton and Topsfield, the Masconomet Regional District will be following these procedures to begin the new year:

  • Unvaccinated staff, unvaccinated students, and unvaccinated visitors are strongly recommended to wear masks indoors, in alignment with the statewide advisory on masking.  We will have masks available for those who need them.
  • Fully vaccinated students and staff may be unmasked while indoors.
  • Any staff member or student who prefers to wear a mask in school will be supported in this choice.  
  • Any individual at higher risk for severe disease from COVID or with a household member who is at high risk is encouraged to mask regardless of vaccination status consistent with the updated DPH Advisory on Face Coverings and Masks.
  • By federal public health order, all students and staff are required to wear masks on school buses at this time.  We will have masks available for students who ride the bus and do not have a mask of their own to wear.
  • All staff and students must wear masks while in school health offices.

We will also follow forthcoming guidance from DESE and DPH regarding contact tracing and quarantining for close contacts.  We expect that this guidance will allow those who have been fully vaccinated to be exempt from needing to quarantine if they are a close contact.  We will also continue our mitigation strategies around ventilation, hand hygiene, and requiring individuals to stay home when they are not feeling well.

Please remember that all of these guidelines regarding masking, close contacts and quarantine are subject to change based on any new guidance issued by DESE and DPH.  We will continue to regularly meet with our local public health officials from Boxford, Middleton and Topsfield to review any new guidance from DESE and DPH, evaluate our local conditions, and make changes to our procedures as warranted. 

Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Masconomet Regional School District has been committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of its students and faculty.  In order allow us to continue to provide the safest environment possible, I encourage all eligible adults and students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  There are over 900 vaccinations sites across the state and the vaccine is free for everyone.  For more information on the vaccine, including the locations of vaccine sites, please go to: www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.

Take care and enjoy the rest of the summer!

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent