Dear Parents and Guardians,
The latest surge in COVID-19 cases in communities across the Commonwealth has understandably raised some questions and concerns. We will do our best to keep you informed of any additional changes in our protocols and to notify you of any schedule changes as early as possible. However, given how quickly things are evolving in other communities and districts, we may have to make some last-minute decisions to ensure that we are able to safely staff and operate our schools. Schools face a number of pressure points in terms of staffing, including the impact of the virus itself on staff and their families, as well as the ability of staff to make alternate childcare arrangements should they live in a district that has changed or will change its schedule due to COVID-19 impacts.
We have made the decision that on Monday January 3, all SPS schools and programs will begin with a 2-hour delayed start from the normal time. We have decided to institute a delayed start to ensure that (1) all staff have access to rapid testing before students arrive; (2) school principals and central office staff can adjust school staffing based on any positive tests reported that morning; and (3) KN95 masks can be distributed to all staff. We know this delayed start is an inconvenience for families, and we appreciate your understanding as we work to safely return from break during this period of high community transmission.
- Bus pickups on Monday morning will be on a 2-hour delay as well. Bus pickup and drop-off locations will remain the same.
- A cold breakfast will be made available at every school from 9:30-10:00 a.m. for those students who are unable to enjoy a healthy breakfast at home prior to arriving at school. Please do not drop off or allow your students to walk to school prior to 9:30 as schools will not be open until then.
- Each school will have a modified lunch schedule.
- Afterschool programs and activities will occur as scheduled.
- The day will count toward the required 180 days of instruction.
In partnership with the city, SPS has been incredibly proactive in putting together a comprehensive set of safety measures to keep COVID-19 out of our schools. These safety measures have helped us to greatly minimize in-school transmission, and we are committed to continuing to do everything we can to keep our schools safe for our students and staff, and to keep our students and staff in school.
With the most recent surge due to the Omicron variant, we are adding the following safety measures to our existing list of protocols, in preparation for a return to our schools from the winter break:
- Please rapid test your student(s) at home Sunday night or Monday before school if possible - whatever works best for your family - prior to returning to school on Monday.
- All staff will rapid test prior to students’ arrival to school on Monday either using a rapid test kit they received from the district before the winter break or a new rapid test provided by the district if they have already used the kit provided before the break.
- All consented students and all staff will pool test at school on Monday or Tuesday.
- The district will have additional rapid symptomatic testing available for students and staff at all schools during the month of January.
- All staff are being provided with KN95 masks to be used at school, regardless of vaccination status.
- Surgical multilayered masks are also available for students at all of our schools if needed. Please make sure your student wears a well-fitting surgical or multilayered mask to school. Our mask policy does not allow for the use of bandanas or neck gaiters.
The following safety measures have been in place since the start of the year and will remain in effect:
- upgraded ventilation and filtration systems in our school buildings and classrooms;
- weekly pool testing of all consented students and staff;
- follow-up rapid testing of all individuals in pools who test positive;
- strict indoor masking requirements for all students, staff, and other adults who work with our students;
- physical distancing requirement of at least 3 feet in our schools;
- frequent handwashing and hand sanitizing protocols;
- regularly hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics in our schools, in partnership with the Somerville Department of Health, the state, and Cataldo;
- having students eat lunch outdoors on days when the weather permits or spread out throughout the school as much as possible;
- establishing vaccination policies for staff and students participating in non-academic extracurricular activities;
- providing personal protective equipment (face masks, face shields as appropriate, and hand sanitizer) throughout the year.
As we prepare to return to our schools, here are some additional important reminders:
- If your student is showing any symptoms of COVID-19, please keep them home. Go through the Daily Symptom Checklist with your child before they leave the house each morning.
- If your student tested positive after December 28, please keep them home for at least five days from the date of the positive test and monitor their symptoms.
- If your student tested positive on or before December 28, they can return to school January 3 with symptom improvement.
- Our next vaccine clinic is January 7 3:00-6:00 p.m. at the Healey School. Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19.
- If you currently have a positive student or positive person in the household, please contact your principal and school nurse.
Lastly, the next several weeks will likely be more unpredictable than we had hoped as we learn more about the impact of Omicron in our schools and in our broader Somerville Community. We thank you in advance for working in partnership with us as we make the decisions necessary to keep our students, staff, and families safe.
Mary Skipper, Superintendent
Andre Green, School Committee Chair
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone
Mayor-elect Katjana Ballantyne