Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, May 19, 2021

Return to In-Person Learning Update

Overall, our return to in-person learning has gone very well.  Approximately 88% of our middle school students opted to return to in-person learning on April 28th and around 70% of high school students returned on May 3rd.  The nicer spring weather has allowed many classes and activities to move outside and take advantage of the tent and our fields.  It has been great to see students and faculty engaged in teaching and learning in-person throughout our campus.  There are some things that we may want to continue after the pandemic is over.  I hope that using the outdoors as a classroom is one of them.

There have not been any major issues to report regarding the return of students during the school day.  We are aware of the traffic issues that have occurred during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up and have been working with our local police departments to provide traffic direction at these times.  I’d also like to remind families that there is plenty of room available on our school busses and that all students are guaranteed bus transportation.  A listing of our bus routes is available at:

May 17 COVID-19 Guidance from Governor Baker

On May 17th, Governor Baker issued guidance lifting most COVID-19 restrictions in Massachusetts, effective May 29th.  For the time being, K-12 schools in Massachusetts will continue with their usual health and safety mitigation strategies, including mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene during the regular school day.  We will also continue with our COVID-19 cleaning practices and avoid sharing materials between students.  I expect that these measures will remain in place in Masconomet Middle and High Schools through the end of the current school year on June 21st

We are reviewing this guidance in light of the lifting of restrictions on school activities that take place outside of the school day.  For example, we received notice that effective on May 18th, student-athletes are no longer required to wear masks while engaged in outdoor athletic activities, and have implemented these new rules for outdoor athletics.  We are also in the process of making revised plans for “Senior Week” and our June 4th Graduation Ceremony based on the lifting of restrictions.  Mr. Delani will be communicating these plans to families of graduates as soon as possible.

On his conference call with superintendents on May 19th, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Riley announced that he is working with the Department of Public Health on plans for the reopening of schools in September. He is asking for full-time, in-person learning and no remote learning option. He is also seeking to eliminate all social distancing requirements for September and anticipates that there will be a requirement to wear masks for at least some grades. Written guidance for September should be issued by DESE in early June.

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at Masconomet

District Administration is in the process of working with Curative to hold a vaccination clinic for students who are 12 and older and any unvaccinated faculty and staff.  We’ve tentatively scheduled this clinic for Wednesday, June 23rd and a session for second doses on July 14th.  More information will be issued from my office, including a link to sign-up for appointments, in the next few days.

“Thank You” to Topsfield Town Meeting

Thanks to the citizens of Topsfield for approving the Masconomet Regional District Budget and Warrant Articles related to revising our District Regional Agreement at Topsfield Town Meeting on May 8th

The District Budget and proposed Regional Agreement Amendments will be voted on by Middleton Town Meeting on Saturday, June 5th and at Boxford Town Meeting on Saturday, June 26th.

Superintendent’s Update, 5/4/21

Dear Friends,

As we continue our great start to our return to in-person learning, I’d like to remind families of the importance of monitoring their children for symptoms of COVID-19.  With the return of students to in-person learning, we’ve also seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.  In some of these cases, the infected person was exhibiting symptoms before coming to school and therefore, should not have come into the building.  As a reminder, anyone with any of the following symptoms should remain at home and are recommended to be tested for COVID-19:

  • Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills (CDC has lowered the temperature from 100.4 to 100.0)
  • Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Headache when in combination with other symptoms
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms

We’ve worked hard to be able to return our students to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year.  It will take our continued commitment to following our health and safety protocols, including staying home when sick, mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-hygiene, to ensure we are all safe and to maintain our in-person model.  Thanks in advance for your cooperation. 

We’ve also received inquiries regarding information on vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to anyone who is at least 16 years old. Our School Nursing Staff has put together this infographic to provide you with information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines:

Individuals who are fully vaccinated are also exempt from quarantining as a close contact unless they are exhibiting symptoms. Having more adults and students over 16 vaccinated lessens the likelihood of spreading COVID-19, so we urge anyone who is willing to get vaccinated.

Thanks, and May the Force Be With You,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, April 28, 2021

Return to In-Person Learning Update

Approximately 90% of students at Masconomet Middle School returned to in-person learning on Monday, April 26.  Thanks to Asst. Superintendent Jeff Sands, Middle School Principal Phil McManus, High School Principal Pete Delani and their teams for getting the building ready for the in-person return of students. This involved fully cleaning both the Middle and High Schools, receiving, assembling and distributing approximately 400 new student desk and chair sets, restocking supplies throughout the buildings and developing and distributing health and safety operating protocols.  We are now completing the preparations to return Masconomet High School Students to in-person learning on Monday, May 3rd.  These preparations are on track to be completed by the end of this week.  Monday, May 3rd will be a delayed opening for both the Middle and High Schools.

Updated DESE and DPH Guidelines on Close Contacts in Classrooms and on School Busses

On April 20, 2021, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued new guidance relative to students who have been identified as close contacts through exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual while in a classroom or on a school bus.  Students in these situations will not have to quarantine unless they were within 3 feet of distance of the COVID-19 positive individual for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.  This does not apply if someone was identified as a close contact outside of the classroom or bus (e.g., in sports, extracurriculars, lunch, etc.) or if masks are not worn by both persons at the time of the exposure. All other close contacts must follow the standard protocol for when a close contact may return to school. ( )

Families of students who were within 6 feet of a COVID-19 infected individual will still be notified that their child is considered to be a close contact, and will be encouraged to have their child tested and monitored for symptoms.  We will be updating our COVID response documentation to reflect this new change.  The positive development from this information is that we will not have to quarantine every student who was sitting between 3 and 6 feet away from a positive individual.  We will, however, still need to identify all students who meet these criteria and notify them.

Updated Commencement Guidance from DESE

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released updated guidance relative to high school commencement activities on April 28.  The only change to the previously released guidance is that for outdoor ceremonies, graduates may be seated 3 feet apart as long as they are masked.  This is a reduction from 6 ft of social distancing that was required in previous guidance.  We will be reviewing the new guidance and making any necessary adjustments to the plans for our graduation ceremony.

Planning for September of 2021

On his conference call with Superintendents on April 27, Commissioner Riley announced that districts could expect “road maps” from DESE by the end of May regarding opening school in September.  He also promised more concrete guidance in the late June/early July timeframe.  The Commissioner is hoping conditions with COVID-19 will be greatly improved and schools will have a “normal” opening in the fall, but he wants to be sure before DESE will issue concrete guidance.  One of the key factors that may impact DESE’s plans is the availability of vaccines for children age 12 to 15 over the summer.

Information Regarding Masconomet’s Return to In-Person Learning

Dear Masconomet High School and Middle School Parents and Caregivers,

We are excited to welcome Masconomet Middle School students to full-time in-person learning on Monday, April 26th and our High School students on Monday, May 3rd.  To facilitate our final preparations for the return of a greater number of in-person students, both April 26th and May 3rd will be delayed opening days.  These days will be in addition to our previously scheduled delayed opening on May 17th.  Classes will begin at 10:00 AM on these three days.  As we approach the return of students to in-person learning, please review the information below.

Health and Safety Guidelines

While the infection rates in our local communities remain low, our ability to maintain in-person learning is dependent on our continuing to follow the health and safety guidelines designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.  These guidelines include mask-wearing, maintaining social distancing, and following appropriate hand hygiene.  In the attached letter, our School Nurses have outlined the health and safety practices we will follow in school.  I ask that you also continue to follow these practices while students are at home in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection. 

Most importantly, I ask that you regularly monitor your children for the symptoms of COVID-19 and keep them home if they are sick.  With the reduced social distancing between students in our in-person model, one COVID-19 case in school will likely result in dozens of students entering quarantine as close contacts.  Monitoring your child for symptoms and keeping them home when they are sick will help us to avoid returning to remote learning due to positive cases and quarantined students.

Student Attendance 

All Middle and High School families have been asked to indicate whether their children will return to in-person learning or remain remote for the rest of the school year.  In order to appropriately track student attendance, we will be instituting the following procedures for the remainder of the year.  Students who have opted for in-person learning and are physically absent from class will be marked “absent” from the class.  In-person students who are not regularly attending school in-person will be referred to the appropriate building administrator for follow-up.   In-person students who are absent from school for COVID-related reasons (illness or close contact) will be allowed temporarily to attend school remotely while they are isolating or quarantining.  Our school nurses and administrative offices will make the necessary changes to student attendance to reflect students who are temporarily attending school remotely for COVID-related reasons.  Parents should follow our usual procedures for calling the appropriate school attendance line to report absences for both in-person and remote students.

Finally, please use the following links for more information regarding Masconomet’s return to in-person learning:

We’re looking forward to the return of students on April 26th and May 3rd.  If you have any questions, please reach out to the appropriate building principal.


Mike Harvey


Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, April 7, 2021

Return to In-Person Learning Update

We are preparing for the return of students to in-person learning at the Middle School on April 26th and the High School on May 3rd.  The Middle School Survey was completed on March 23rd. Families that did not respond to the survey were then contacted directly by the Middle School.  Approximately 88% of Middle School Students have indicated they will return in-person on April 26. 

The High School Survey was open for one week and closed yesterday, April 6th.  The initial response rate was around 81%, which is 894 of 1110 total High School students.  Of these 894 responses, approximately 69% have opted to return to in-person learning and 31% have chosen remote.  The 216 students who did not respond to the survey will be contacted directly over the next week so we can have a complete accounting of the number of students we should expect in the building on May 3rd.

Operationally, we are in the middle of completing an over 40-item list of tasks in time for the in-person return of Middle School students on April 26th.  This list includes: installing a tent adjacent to the field house; procuring an additional 400 student desks and deploying them to needed areas throughout the buildings; setting up Middle and High School classrooms at 3’ distancing; restocking cleaning supplies in classrooms, offices and bathrooms; and preparing our food services for the greater number of in-person students.  Additionally, we’re updating our Staff and Student Protocol Documents, developing guidance for classroom teachers and creating new seating charts for school busses.  Much of the work of physically setting up the buildings will take place over April Vacation week.

Changes to 2020-2021 School Calendar

In order to provide teachers with some additional time to prepare for a greater number of in-person students, we’re making some changes to our school calendar.  Next Tuesday, April 13th, we will be administering the SAT to members of our Junior Class.  Around 270 Juniors have signed up to take the exam, which will be held in the Field House.  All other High School students will attend remotely that day.  Middle School students in “Cohort A” will attend school in-person that day.  Classes for both the Middle and High Schools will end at 12:30 on April 13th.  We will be providing bus transportation and a “grab and go” lunch for the in-person Middle School students and juniors taking the SAT.  Additionally, April 26th and May 3rd will be delayed opening days for all students.  School will begin at 10:00 AM on these two Mondays.  The Middle and High School administration will provide families with more information regarding the daily schedule for April 13th, April 26th and May 3rd.

MCAS Update

On April 1, Commissioner Riley announced that he will be asking the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to waive the achievement of a passing score on the MCAS English Language Arts and Mathematics exams as a requirement for a diploma for the Class of 2022 (current juniors).  If this recommendation is approved, 11th grade students will not need to take the MCAS.  The Commissioner has also announced that there will be a remote administration of the MCAS for students in grades 7 and 8 who have opted to learn remotely for the remainder of the year.  Finally, the window for completing the MCAS for our students in grades 7-10 has been extended to June 11th.

DESE Guidance on Student Groups and School Events

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has also released updated “Guidance on Student Groups and School Events for School Year 2020-2021.” This document supplements previous guidance on holding graduation ceremonies that was released on March 22nd.  Some of the key points of the “Guidance on Student Groups and School Events for School Year 2020-2021” are: 

  • Non-athletic student group activities should be held virtually.
  • Schools should not hold proms this year.
  • Gatherings that include outside participants should be held online.
  • Activities that require students to leave school grounds should be reconsidered.

Our Executive Leadership Team has reviewed both of these guidance documents and is using them to plan our end of year events.

Letter Regarding Out of State Travel for Masconomet Staff and Students

Dear Masconomet Families and Staff,

As we approach April Vacation and the return of Middle School students to in-person learning on April 26th  and high school students to in-person learning on May 3rd, I wanted to make you aware of the Masconomet’s procedure regarding staff or students who choose to travel out of state.  

Any staff member or student who travels out of state is subject to Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Travel Advisory and should quarantine for 10 days upon their return to Massachusetts.  Travelers in the following categories are exempt from the 10-day quarantine if:

  • The traveler has received a negative COVID-19 result on a test administered no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival in Massachusetts, or receives a negative COVID-19 test result after their arrival in Massachusetts.  Travelers who test after their return to Massachusetts should quarantine until they receive their result.
  • Any traveler who is returning to Massachusetts after being out of state for less than 24 hours.
  • Travelers who are fully vaccinated  (i.e. who have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, OR who have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 14 or more days ago) and who do not have symptoms.

Masconomet staff or students who travel out of state must either provide documentation of a negative test result, completed vaccination or will need to quarantine for the 10-day period before they will be allowed to return to work/school.

The reason for these requirements can be summed-up in four words:  “Maintaining In-Person Learning.”  Once we return to in-person learning, one positive case in school will have a large impact in terms of the number of individuals who will be subject to quarantine as close contacts.  Our school community has worked hard this year to prepare for our return to in-person learning.  We would like to do everything we can to maintain in-person learning once it begins.  If you have any questions, please contact your respective principal or school nurse.  Thank you in advance for making sure we can keep it that way through the remaining 11 weeks of school.


Mike Harvey


Statement Regarding the Rise of Acts of Violence and Discrimination Against Members of Our American Asian Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community

Dear Masconomet Community,

The murder of eight people in Georgia last week, six of whom were of Asian descent, and the overall rise of incidents of hate against members of our American Asian Pacific Islander (AAPI) community over the past year demonstrate how much more we still need to do to combat acts of hatred and bigotry in our society.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate the xenophobia and anti-AAPI sentiment that has existed throughout our country’s history.  I am saddened to hear of these most recent acts of hatred and stand in support with our AAPI community members in these very troubling times.  I also want to reaffirm the commitment of the Masconomet Regional School District to addressing any acts of hatred against any members of our community.  Bigotry and discrimination have no place in the Masconomet School Community.

Last fall, the Masconomet School Committee developed an Equity and Anti-Racism Resolution that states our commitment to maintaining a learning environment where all members of our community feel safe, welcomed, respected, and supported, and to eradicating discriminatory policies, practices, and structures in our District.  The School Committee’s Anti-Racism Subcommittee continues to work toward these goals through developing policies and identifying programming to embed “diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in all aspects of education and learning for our students, families, faculty and staff.”  

Masconomet’s Vision 2025 strives to develop graduates whose success “is dependent upon their ability to embrace and thoughtfully act within our world that is racially, culturally, linguistically and economically diverse.”  The acts of violence and discrimination of the past year against our AAPI community, and against other underrepresented groups in our society, demonstrate how developing these skills in our students is needed now more than ever.


Michael Manuel Harvey, Ed.D.


Masconomet Reopening Update, 3/11/21

Dear Masconomet Community,

On March 9, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) issued “Guidance on In-Person Learning and Student Learning Time Requirements.”  This guidance announced that all Massachusetts middle schools must return to full-time, in-person learning by Wednesday, April 28, 2021.  Masconomet’s current plan is to return students in grades 7 and 8 to full-time, in-person learning on Monday, April 26, 2021, which is the Monday after April Vacation.  In the March 9th “Guidance,” DESE also announced that all Massachusetts high school schools will be required to return to in-person learning later this spring.  The exact date for this shift is expected to be announced by DESE in April.  I anticipate that this date will be sometime in early May.  Last night, I presented the School Committee with an update on where the Masconomet District stands relative to this guidance from DESE..

Our timeline for returning students to in-person learning after April Vacation will give our teachers and staff members more opportunity to receive the vaccine prior to working with larger numbers of students.  As of today, preK-12 educational personnel became eligible for vaccination at Massachusetts’ state vaccination sites.  I was also happy to hear that Governor Baker yesterday announced four dates will be reserved at the state’s mass vaccination sites to administer vaccines to teachers, school staff and child care workers.  These dedicated dates, along with the promised delivery of more vaccine doses to Massachusetts, will go a long way to ensuring our educators are better protected from contracting COVID-19.

As per DESE’s announcement, parents will have the option of choosing whether to send their children to school in-person, full-time, or to have their children attend school remotely.  This decision will be binding for the rest of the school year.  Students who choose to attend remotely, will continue learning in their current classes through Blackboard, our online learning platform.  Unless they are absent for a COVID-related reason (illness or quarantine), students who have elected to attend school in-person will be marked “absent” for any days they are not physically present in school and will not be allowed to attend classes remotely. 

As with our current hybrid model, in-person learning at Masconomet will continue to implement health and safety mitigation strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.  These mitigation strategies include mandatory mask-wearing, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, and contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine.  One change in our mitigation strategy is in regards to physical distancing.  Since October of 2020, our practice has been to ensure at least 6’ of physical distancing between students.  As per DESE’s “Guidance,” 3’ is now the minimum distance required between students.  As a result, we will be re-arranging our classroom spaces to meet this new standard.  The exception to the 3’ physical distance standard is when students are unmasked, such as during lunch or a mask break, where 6’ of physical distancing will continue to be required.

Over the next several weeks, we will make the necessary preparations to return our Middle School Students to in-person learning on April 26, and our High School Students shortly thereafter.  These preparations will include conducting a survey for parents, guardians and caregivers to indicate whether their children will attend school in person or remotely for the rest of the school year, measuring and re-arranging furniture in our classrooms to ensure the required 3’ distancing is achieved, and making necessary arrangements to ensure other critical operations, such as lunch, can be carried out with the necessary mitigation strategies.  Parents should expect to receive the survey indicating their choice of in-person or remote learning early next week.

As we reach the one-year anniversary of our initial closing of schools on March 13, 2020, it seems we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 pandemic and can contemplate a return to some sense of a normalcy.  Our adherence to COVID-19 mitigation strategies designed to stop the spread, combined with the increasing number of individuals who become vaccinated, will hopefully continue to result in a decrease in the number of people affected by this disease.  I look forward to seeing the return of all of Masconomet’s students to in-person learning, beginning with our Middle School on April 26th.  We will continue to update the community as more information becomes available regarding our reopening plan.  Thank you for your continued support.


Mike Harvey


Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 2/24/21

Dr. Mary Jo Carabatsos Hired as Masconomet Regional High School’s Principal

It gives me great pleasure to announce the hiring of Mary Jo Carabatsos, Ph.D. as the next Principal of Masconomet Regional High School.  Through our interview process, Dr. Carabatsos distinguished herself as a school leader who is visionary, data-focused, thoughtful, and engaged in the lives of her students and faculty.  In her work as the Dean of Teaching and Learning at the Brooks School, Dr. Carabatsos led the implementation of a competency-based assessment system that teaches students the skills necessary for lifelong success.  I’ve spoken with Dr. Carabatsos several times over the past week, and she is eager to begin the process of meeting our community, learning more about Masconomet, and working with us to achieve the goals of Masconomet Vision 2025.  I’m excited to have her join our team on July 1, 2021. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the members of our community who participated in our search process.  Thanks to our Screening Committee, which was co-chaired by Patty Bullard and Phil McManus, and was made up of High School Student Justin Crosby; High School Faculty Members Jenna Almeida, Kathy Natale, and Melissa Stanley; Department Heads Irene Duros and Tammy Fay; and High School Parents Mark Butterworth, Alexis Kostas and Karen Porter for conducting initial interviews and recommending our three finalists.  Thanks also to the members of our community who participated in the interview sessions during our virtual site visits, including the 60+ students of our Masconomet High School Student Council, high school faculty, department heads, and parents and community members.  The feedback on the three finalists provided by these groups was invaluable in helping me to reach this decision.

Updated Guidance on Learning Models

Since February 11, we have received several communications from our state and federal governments around how we will conduct school in the spring of 2021.  On February 11, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released updated guidance around student transportation.  This guidance removed some of the restrictions relative to the number of students that can be transported on a school bus.  On February 12, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) released “Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation.”  This document presents guidance for the best practices to both safely open schools and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.  Finally, on February 23rd, the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education released “Initial Information on Expanding In-Person Learning this Spring.”  In this letter, the Commissioner expresses his goal of shifting away from remote and hybrid learning models and returning to in-person learning this spring and promises a plan to be released in March that provides for a phased approach to returning students to the classroom beginning in April with students in the elementary grades . 

I will be reviewing these communications in greater detail with the School Committee this evening.  Some of the key takeaways for our schools are:

  • Masconomet currently has a strong COVID-19 mitigation plan in place that meets the requirements of the CDC.  To date, we have had 92 reported student cases and 20 adult cases of COVID-19 since October 29, 2020, and no known instances of transmission of COVID-19 between students or staff while in school.
  • The elimination of the requirement of 6ft of social distancing for students on school busses has removed a major hurdle for a return to full in-person learning.
  • The requirement that students are separated by 6ft of social distancing while they are unmasked to eat lunch remains a major impediment to returning to in-person learning. We do not possess the physical space to accommodate the students in our largest high school lunch at 6ft distancing.
  • We are awaiting the Commissioner’s plan for returning more students to in-person learning to see what other changes may be made to the state’s reopening guidance. This plan has been promised in the next two weeks.
  • The District’s Executive Leadership Team and School Committee remain committed to safely returning all students to in-person learning as soon as it is practicable.

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, February 3, 2021

High School Principal Search Update

We have hosted two of our three finalists for the position of Principal of Masconomet Regional High School for second interviews.  Katie DiNardo visited Masconomet on January 27 and Ryan Souliotis had his second interview on January 28.  Our third finalist, Mary Jo Carabatsos, will visit Masconomet on Thursday, February 4th.  All three candidates will follow a schedule that includes meeting with faculty, students and administration.  Each candidate will also have a public evening interview with parents and members of the community.  Information regarding each of the three finalists, including links to the recordings of the public interview sessions and feedback forms for parents and members of the community, can be found at

COVID-19 Update

The Masconomet District has seen a decrease in the number of reported COVID-19 cases since our last School Committee Meeting on January 20.  In the last two weeks, we have eleven reported COVID-19 cases among faculty and staff.  This number is down from 17 reported cases for the two-week period from January 6 through January 19, and 40 reported cases between December 21st and January 6th.  We continue to meet as necessary with our local public health officials to identify close contacts, although the number of individuals who are present in school while infectious remains small.  Of the eleven cases reported in the last two weeks, only two were present in school while infectious, and in both cases no individuals were identified as close contacts of these two positive people due to their following our health and safety requirements.  We cannot stress enough how important it is to follow the CDC’s guidelines on wearing a mask, maintaining 6 feet of social distancing and following proper hand hygiene.

DESE Pooled Testing Program

In early January, DESE announced the implementation of a pooled testing program for Massachusetts School Districts.  Under this program, individual COVID-19 test samples are combined into “pools,” or groups of between 10 and 25 individuals.  If a pooled sample shows a positive COVID-19 result, all members of this pool must be tested again to determine which individual in the pool has COVID-19.  This approach greatly reduces the cost of testing to around $5 per individual included in each pool.  DESE is offering to pay for the cost of the testing for the first six weeks of the program until the end of March.  They also will have some support for districts in the logistics involved in developing the routines necessary to carry out the testing.  After the initial offer period ends, districts will be responsible for the entire cost of the testing program.  Information from DESE regarding this program is located at:

I have spent a great deal of time over the past several weeks gathering information about this program and consulting with our local public health experts regarding the benefits and drawbacks of participating.  I have attended several webinars from DESE on the program, held conference calls with our local public health officials, met with our Masconomet Nursing Faculty and personally visited the Watertown Public Schools to observe their own in-house testing program and interview their personnel. 

After careful consideration of all of the information provided by DESE and listening to the opinions of our local health officials and school nursing staff, the consensus is for us to not participate in this program at this time.  While the offer of the DESE to cover a substantial part of the cost of this program is an enticing option, I am concerned that providing the personnel and financial resources necessary to implement and maintain this program will exceed our current capacity.  This becomes an even less enticing proposition when weighed against the fact that Watertown’s testing program is not identifying significantly higher percentages of COVID-19 positive students and staff than what we are currently identifying in Masconomet without an in-house testing program.  As I reported earlier, we have had eleven reported positive cases in the last two weeks, and only two of them were in the building while infectious.  Our plan for mask wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene seems to be working to stop any spread of infection in our buildings.  Our public health officials also expressed the concern that a testing program may provide a false sense of security in our community, which would lead to fewer people following the public health recommendations regarding mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing. 

Our School Nursing Staff and Executive Leadership Team have scheduled time to revisit this decision at the end of February to see if conditions have changed to warrant participation in the program.

COVID-19 School Reopening Plan

Members of the School Committee and I have received inquiries from parents regarding when we might be able to return to more in-person learning for students.  Our Masconomet School Reopening Plan, which was published on August 14, 2020, outlines the requirements from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that we must comply with in order to implement in-person learning.  To date, these requirements still remain in effect.

In August, after conducting a feasibility study of our programs in light of the DESE and DPH requirements, we identified several major hurdles that would need to be overcome in order to meet the DESE and DPH requirements for full in-person learning.  First, our classrooms are not large enough to provide for the minimum of three-feet of social distancing for staff and students.  The Boxford Board of Health has recently reiterated that the preferred distance is at least six feet of distancing and our experience with contact tracing has demonstrated that if we were to reduce our spacing to three feet, we would have many more students and staff quarantined as close contacts.  Second, our shared cafeteria spaces are not large enough to feed all of our students with the six feet of social distancing that is required when students are unmasked to eat.  In our hybrid plan, moving lunch to our field house only allows us to feed ½ half of the students who would be in a lunch period with all in-person learning.  Finally, social distancing requirements limit the capacity of our school busses to about 1/3 of full capacity, or about 25 students on a 77-seat bus.  As the requirements from DESE and the DPH have not changed, these conditions still limit what we can do in regards to implementing full in-person learning.  We will revisit our plan if and when the DESE and DPH issue new regulations. Any changes to our Reopening Plan would also need to be collectively bargained with our teacher and paraprofessional unions.

Notice of Elevated PFAS Levels in Drinking Water

We received notice from the Town of Topsfield’s Water Department that the water in Topsfield, including that supplied to Masconomet, has tested for elevated levels of PFAS, which are chemicals used in industrial manufacturing.  The advisory from the Topsfield Water Department recommends that consumers in certain subgroups, including pregnant or nursing women, infants, and people diagnosed by their health care provider to have a compromised immune system, should not drink or cook with our water. 

Drinking water at Masconomet will continue to be available via our touchless water filling stations throughout campus, however please be aware that the current filtration systems in these filling stations are not specifically certified to remove PFAS.  We are currently working with the filling station manufacturer to identify, procure and install certified filters. We will let you know if/when this occurs.  In the interim, we encourage all students and staff to bring bottled water with them each day in order to limit their exposure to PFAS and to stay properly hydrated.  For those students and staff that do not bring bottled water or are uncomfortable utilizing the touchless water filling stations, we will make bottled water available during daily lunch services in the Field House Cafeteria service area.  We will also only use bottled water or water that has been properly filtered for cooking foods (like pasta) served by our Food Services Department. 

For more information, please refer to the attached letter from the Topsfield Water Department:

Sprinkler Pipe Failure

On Monday, February 1, a sprinkler pipe in our generator room failed, causing the fire alarm to sound in both buildings.  Students were temporarily relocated to the field house and the auditorium while our local fire departments assessed the situation, and were eventually returned to class.  Yesterday’s snow day gave us time to complete the cleanup, to implement some temporary solutions to the building systems that were impacted by the flood and to have the necessary building inspections completed.  Asst. Superintendent Jeff Sands will be working with our insurance carrier to submit claims for this failure and any other long-term repairs that need to be done.