NSBORO Update: No simple “threshold or metric” for suspending in-person learning

Above: Last night’s update from the Superintendent included a reminder to families about the role they play in staying safe and keeping numbers down. (image cropped from October newsletter)

Last night, the Superintendent of Northborough and Southborough Public Schools issued a news update. It shared the Covid-19 Dashboard, but also provided more context on how the schools are studying the situation.

In the message, he confirmed what I surmised a couple of days ago. Despite what was presented in school committee meetings this summer, hybrid school wouldn’t automatically shut down based on the color level of our town.

In August, Superintendent Gregory Martineau had warned committees that in-person learning would automatically cease if towns turned “red” or high risk under state metrics. But as I noted earlier this week, the small size of our town means that a few cases can push us from red to yellow. And in September the Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education indicated in letters that they were still pushing for in-person schooling, except where towns are in red for three weeks.*

That doesn’t mean that we’re safe from being shut down. It means that the district is able to work with Public Health professionals to decide based on the details of cases and other factors. According to his message there is no “one threshold or metric” behind the decision of whether to shut down, or even expand, in-person learning.

Here is the key excerpt from last night’s update:

Two frequently asked questions that I would like to address are 1) What would cause a school or District to move into a full remote learning model? and, 2) What is the path forward to increase the amount of in-person learning for students?

There is no one threshold or metric that indicates when a school or district should suspend in-person learning. District administration and school leaders will work closely with the local boards of health nurses, the Medical Advisory Team, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) COVID Reporting Unit to determine the appropriate next steps.

These next steps can include implementing existing protocols to notify close contacts for testing and isolation, conferring with local public health officials, the District Medical Advisory Team (MAT) and/or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to determine if transmission is occurring in the class or school, or seeking advice on whether to suspend in-person learning for that class, grade, school or district.

It is important to note that these decisions will be made based on local context, in collaboration with DESE and the local boards of health, and may be based on the following factors:

  • If there is a need for an extensive cleaning of the building or other facility mitigation.
  • If the mobile testing unit results, or other test results, suggest widespread in school transmission is occurring.
  • If there are widespread absences among students and staff due to illness.
  • If the school is in a district reported as “red” on the DPH health metric for the past three weeks, and risk of transmission to students and/or staff is increased.

The school department, the local boards of health nurses, and the Medical Advisory Team will monitor the state public health data, the local data, and the district data, which are all important to consider when making this decision.

The District’s Medical Advisory Team (MAT), school leaders, and educators will examine and study the feasibility of increasing the number of students who attend in-person. The goal is to return to 100% in-person learning, as safely as possible. The Medical Advisory Team (MAT) will be convening next week. As we look forward, it is essential that we all do our part to keep each other safe. BE SAFE ~ BE SMART ~ DO YOUR PART

That last line was emphasized in a document reminding everyone of basic safety protocols. It also included links to the new Covid-19 Weekly Dashboard, the Self-Monitor Checklist, and other details. Click here to open it.

The above excerpt doesn’t include Martineau’s introduction, recapping the resumption of remote schooling and the launch of K-8 hybrid attendance. For that and other topics in the newsletter (like the recap of Professional Development), parents and newsletter subscribers can check their emails.

If you aren’t on the email list, you can view a pdf I created here. (The district has yet to post the newsletter to the website. So this copy and paste version from email was the best I could do for now. It doesn’t include all of the details and links – just the four main stories.)

*As I wrote yesterday, The state’s weekly reports are based on data compiled each Wednesday. Which means that even though Southborough would already be in the red this week, it won’t happen until at least next week. (Even then, I believe it would require one more positive case between now and Wednesday to push us over the threshold that day.)

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