School roundup: Teacher Burnout, Contact Tracing protocols, Budget season, and another Feedback window for Policies

I’m rounding up a few news items about Northborough-Southborough public schools.

ARHS Math Teacher talks about Covid related stress

Yesterday, local news organizations across the country shared a story about teachers across the country feeling burnt out by the toll the pandemic is taking. An Algonquin Math teacher was cited as a prime example. Mary Rose Steele, who has taught at Algonquin for 22 years, was interviewed by reporter Chris Conte (an ARHS alum).

Like so many other educators, the high school math teacher is buried under a mountain of work and anxiety.

“If I stop and think about it, it’s worse than I let on, but I need to keep going,” she said. “There are days I just lay in bed and struggle to get up.” . . .

She loves what she does, but the pandemic has proved to be exhausting.

Steele spoke about the impact that the recent spike in Covid cases is having on her and students as they headed into midterms – which started this morning. You can view that interview here.

Speaking of the district’s Covid spike. . .

NSBORO addressing Covid Spike with changes to Contact Tracing protocols

127 new Covid cases were reported Monday, January 10th – Friday, January 14th.

On Friday, Wellness Director Mary Ellen Duggan issued a public letter to faculty and school families. It addresses the situation and some changes in the administration’s handling of contact tracing given the spike:

After twenty-two months we know the course of the pandemic is ever-changing. We also know that many strategies to keep ourselves as low risk as possible have not changed. Since the beginning we have known that the following mitigation measures help minimize our risk:

  • Wearing a well-fitted, multi-layered mask
  • Distancing as much as possible
  • Proper hand hygiene
  • Staying home and testing if you have symptoms

As the case counts in our state, towns, and schools continue to dramatically increase it is imperative that we continue to diligently employ these strategies. We cannot stress enough that it is critical to our continued operation that sick students/staff, even with mild symptoms, stay home from school and contact the school nurse.

The last few weeks have been particularly challenging for our schools, students, staff, and families as we adapt to the surge of cases and the changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Public Health (DPH), and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Given the enormity and scope of contact tracing within the community, local Boards of Health are prioritizing contact tracing to those at greatest risk for adverse outcomes. It is now a public health expectation that those who test positive share this news with anyone with whom they have been in contact with. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the school nurses and the towns’ public health nurses have collaborated to contact trace for our students/families both in school and outside of school. This has not changed.

Two years into this pandemic, our school nurses have continued to diligently contact trace and inform our families of positive COVID-19 cases within our school community. We have certainly reached a point where the origin of transmission is difficult to determine and we can assume that transmission could be happening in the community, in households, and also in school. Based on community transmission rates, we ask that you assume that you have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, and report to nursing if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.

As the virus continues to change, we need to continually adapt our strategies. (read more

In non-Covid news. . .

Budget Season is in process

Last week, the Community Advocate reported on Algonquin’s preliminary budget presented at a December Regional School Committee meeting:

The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough’s preliminary budget for the 2023 fiscal year would include a 4.52% increase over the current year, according to a presentation to the Regional School Committee last month.

That translates to an increase of about $1.1 million for a total cost of just over $26.1 million.

“I will caution that we are very early in the budget process, and there are a lot of unknowns at this point in time,” Superintendent Greg Martineau said on Dec. 15. (read more)

In Friday’s weekly message to the NSBORO community, Martineau explained the budget process timeline. Following the presentation of Preliminary budgets, Recommended Budgets are presented in January and February, with the School Committees making their votes during those months. This Wednesday night’s Regional School Committee agenda includes the presentation of the Recommended Budget for Fiscal Year 2022-2023.

Feedback solicited on NSBORO policy revisions re non-union staff time off

NSBORO school committees are continuing to soliciting public feedback before they approve proposed new policies or implement revisions to standing policies.

The latest batch under review were included on the December agenda for the Combined School Committee meetings. That means they could be included on February or March agendas for voting on under a “second reading”. If you have any concerns you wish the committees to consider before implementing the policies, now is the time to voice them.

The feedback site includes a new policy for Southborough public schools:

  • Staff Transportation of Students in Private Vehicle – G-130 (This would prohibit staff from transporting students to or from school/sponsored activity in their private vehicle without prior authorization. An identical policy was already approved for the high school.) 

For all three districts, the committees will also be voting on changes to six policies about time off for district/school employees who aren’t part of a collective bargaining agreement: 

  • Vacations for Full Time Non-Instructional Personnel Non-Aligned Staff– G-210
  • Bereavement Days for Full Time Non-Instructional Personnel Non-Aligned Staff– G-220
  • Personal Days for Full Time Non-Instructional Personnel Non-Aligned Staff– G-230
  • Sick Leave for Full Time Non-Instructional Personnel Non-Aligned Staff– G-240
  • Short-Term Unpaid Leaves for All Time Non-Instructional Personnel Non-Aligned Staff– G-250
  • Leave for Family Illness for All Time Non-Instructional Personnel Non-Aligned Staff– G-260

To read the proposed policy changes or to submit a comment to the relevant school committee, click here.

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