Staff & Family Update August 12, 2021
Dear SPS Families and Staff,
As we prepare for the start of the 2021-22 school year, I want to begin by reassuring our staff, students, and families that we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide a safe, welcoming, and enriching environment for our students and staff. The spread of the Delta variant has required that we adjust our plans for the fall, but we are prepared and ready to welcome all our students and staff back to full in-person teaching and learning.
Per DESE guidance and based on what we know about how kids learn best, SPS will not offer remote learning options for the 2021-22 school year, meaning that all enrolled students will return to full in-person learning this fall. We recognize that this return is both an exciting and anxious time for many in our community, especially for those with immunocompromised family members or students under the age of 12 who are not yet vaccine-eligible. We will do everything in our ability to put appropriate safeguards in place for a safe return for all students and staff.
We also know that despite a more contagious variant and the possibility of breakthrough infections, vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves and those around us – especially our younger students. With those things in mind, SPS and the City of Somerville want to do everything we can to encourage full vaccination for eligible staff and students. And we will begin the year with a comprehensive multi-layered approach to COVID-19 safety, including masks, physical distancing, ventilation, handwashing, testing, and vaccination.
Vaccination is the most effective prevention strategy available for allowing schools to resume and sustain full in-person instruction. COVID-19 vaccines are available to all people age 12 and older. SPS will promote vaccinations for eligible students, teachers, staff, and families through school-based and community vaccination opportunities. We will be working closely with Somerville’s Health and Human Services Department to coordinate and announce new vaccination opportunities over the coming weeks.
We have asked the School Committee to approve a measure that requires all Somerville Public Schools educators, staff, and any other individuals providing services in SPS buildings to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Any staff or service provider who are not yet fully vaccinated must get fully vaccinated prior to October 1, 2021. Any district staff member or service provider who does not provide proof of vaccination must submit to routine COVID-19 testing provided by the district and wear a KN95 (or equivalent high-grade surgical) mask inside school buildings.
We have also asked the School Committee to approve a measure requiring all educators, staff, and vaccine-eligible students (12 years and older) participating in Somerville Public Schools non-academic extracurricular activities, including SPS Athletics, to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Any vaccine-eligible students seeking to participate in SPS non-academic extracurriculars who are not yet fully vaccinated should plan to be fully vaccinated prior to October 1, 2021. Details will follow in the next communication as to how educators, staff, and vaccine-eligible students (12 years and older) should provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Routine COVID Testing
SPS will continue to provide weekly COVID-19 assurance testing to identify infected individuals and disrupt outbreaks. At the start of the school year, once-weekly PCR pool testing will be required for all educators, staff, and students. Rapid antigen testing will also be offered on-site to individuals who develop symptoms during the day.
Masks Required Indoors
Last night, the School Committee approved a mandatory Face Covering Policy for all indoor activities. Masks or face coverings will be required for all students and staff working in our buildings, regardless of vaccination status, while inside school buildings.
As we return, we are building on the strength of layered safety measures put in place last year, while strongly encouraging vaccination. The evolving nature of this pandemic requires us to continually assess and adjust our approach based on data. Our priority is to offer a safe, healthy full in-person teaching and learning environment for our community. We appreciate working in partnership with our staff, students and families to achieve this goal.
I look forward to welcoming students and staff back soon and we will continue to provide weekly updates. I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer!
Mary Skipper, Superintendent of Schools