December 2, 2020
COVID-19 Cases in Our Schools
Since my last report on November 18, 2020, we have had an additional 14 positive COVID-19 cases reported in the Masconomet Community. This brings the total number of reported cases to 22 individuals since we began our hybrid model on October 21st. Most of these cases have been determined to have no close contacts in our school community. While 14 new cases is nearly twice the number we experienced over the first month of our hybrid schedule (8 cases), we still seem to be experiencing fewer cases than what is being seen in our communities as a whole.
As has been our practice since late October, whenever a positive COVID-19 case is reported to the school, either from our local departments of public health, or through a parent directly contacting the school, we call together our COVID Response team. This group is made up of members of the Masconomet administration and nursing staff, the Boxford Town Administrator, representatives from the Boxford, Middleton and Topsfield Departments of Public Health and the Superintendent of the Tri-Town School Union. The purpose of this group is to share information regarding positive cases among the relevant stakeholders, to discuss necessary actions in response to the positive case report, including the quarantining of the infected individual and the identification, notification, and quarantining of any people who are identified as “close contacts” of a COVID positive member of our community, and to evaluate the overall status of the District relative to COVID cases. As of today, this group has met a total of eight times since late October.
We have also received some updated information from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding the quarantine period for those identified as “Close Contacts” of a COVID positive individual. In this new guidance, a close contact must remain quarantined for:
- At least 14 days from the date of last exposure; or
- At least 10 days, provided all of the following are satisfied:
- You have not had, and do not have, any symptoms;
- You are tested on day 8 of your quarantine period or later using a molecular diagnostic test (e.g., polymerase chain reaction (PCR)) to detect the presence of the virus;
- You receive a negative test result; and
- You monitor yourself for symptoms for the full 14 days. If you develop symptoms, you should contact your health care provider and be re-tested.
Also, a reminder: Please remember that if a student or staff member tests positive, only close contacts should quarantine. Other students and educators in the classroom should not quarantine unless they are confirmed close contacts and instructed to do so by either their local department of public health or a member of our school nursing staff. A close contact is defined as only those who have been within 6 feet of distance of the individual for at least 15 minutes while the person was infectious. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s updated “Protocols for responding to COVID-19 scenarios in school, on the bus, or in community settings” guidance is posted at https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/on-desktop/protocols/protocols.docx **Note: On December 2, 2020, we received notice that the CDC issued new guidelines for quarantining close contacts. This information will be updated when the Massachusetts DPH and DESE update their guidance for schools.
Delayed Opening on December 7, 2020
Monday, December 7, 2020 will be a delayed opening for all students in Grades 7-12. School will begin at 10:05. Cohort “B” will be in-person on this day. Both Middle and High School Principals will be communicating the class schedule for the day with their school communities.
Schedule for Week of December 21, 2020
Monday, December 21st and Tuesday, December 22nd will be all-remote days for students. We will run our regular 7-period schedule virtually for these two days. There will be no students attending in-person on December 21st and 22nd, except for students in our LRC Program at the Middle and High Schools. Students are expected to attend all of their classes remotely through Blackboard. Teachers will be taking period attendance and reporting student absences from class as usual.
Holiday Break will begin on Wednesday, December 23rd, and we will return to school on Monday, January 4th. Cohort “B” will be attending in-person learning and Cohort “A” attending remotely on January 4th.
Hybrid Schedule Update
We instituted the use of a “WIN” block in our daily schedule on Monday, November 30. In this schedule, we will replace one period per day with a “WIN” block, a directed study period where students can seek extra help from their teachers. The School Committee will be voting to approve an agreement on this change tonight. Members of the Executive Leadership Team and the Masconomet Education Association have also started meeting to discuss other possible changes to our hybrid schedule. We will be communicating any other changes as we reach agreements with the Masconomet Teachers Association.
High School Principal Search
As we learned at our November 4 School Committee Meeting, Masconomet High School Principal Delani has announced his intention to retire at the end of the school year. I want to thank Mr. Delani for his many years of service to Masconomet and especially for his leadership in this time of crisis.
I have developed a timeline for hiring a new Principal of Masconomet Regional High School to begin on July 1, 2021. The position will be advertised beginning on Monday, December 7, 2020, with a closing date of January 4, 2021. Initial interviews will be held during the week of January 18, and finalists will be interviewed for a second time during the week of January 25, 2021. Site visits and reference checks will be conducted during the first week of February and an offer to a preferred candidate is anticipated during the week of February 8.
The Initial Interview Committee will be Co-Chaired by Asst. Superintendent Patty Bullard and Middle School Principal Phil McManus, who are in the process of identifying the remaining members of the Interview Committee. We will also be conducting a survey of the high school faculty and parents regarding the qualities they would like to see in our next Principal of Masconomet High School in the next few weeks.
Standardized Testing in January
While the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) cancelled the MCAS Test administration last spring for all sophomores, it did not relieve these students of the requirement they pass the test in order to achieve a high school diploma. We have received notice from DESE that all of our current juniors will be given the MCAS test during the week of January 18, 2021. Additionally, we have received notice from the College Board that the PSAT will be administered for juniors on Tuesday, January 26th. Given our social distancing and space requirements, all other students in the District will be learning remotely beginning on Tuesday, January 19 and return to hybrid in-person learning on Wednesday January 27 in order to facilitate MCAS and PSAT testing for our 11th grade students.