Back to School: COVID-19 FAQs

Where can I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

The City of Haverhill is your best source for vaccine clinics. or locations near you that are offering the COVID-19 vaccine. Alternatively, there are a number of options available across the region. Please see the information below to find what’s best for you.

Online: Find a COVID-19 Vaccination Site

Local: https://www.cityofhaverhill.com/
Information about regular and pop-up vaccination sites in our community.

State: https://www.vaxfinder.mass.gov/
Simple-to-use tool to locate vaccination sites and schedule appointments.

Federal: https://www.vaccines.gov/
Simple-to-use tool to locate vaccination sites and schedule appointments.

Phone: Find a COVID-19 Vaccination Site

Text: 438829
Text your zip code to 438829 and receive immediate information.

Call: 1-800-232-0233
Connect with vaccine sites via phone. Available in multiple languages.

Call: 311
Dial 311 to be connected with Haverhill City Hall and learn about vaccine sites.

Are all Haverhill Public Schools staff members/volunteers required to be vaccinated?

Not at this time. Although with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 and older, this may occur in the near future.
Individuals 12 and older are eligible to receive any vaccinations approved under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization.

What PK-12 health and safety protocols are being recommended now by health experts and key decision-makers in light of the Delta variant?

Here is a timeline and summary of the most recent guidance issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) and elected and appointed State officials:

  • 07-19-2021: The AAP recommends a “layered approach to make school safe for all students, teachers, and staff.” The AAP’s guidance “includes a recommendation that everyone older than age two (2) wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.”
  • 07-27-2021: The CDC suggests a return to indoor mask-wearing in this CDC guidance. In the guidance, they state the following: “CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
  • 07-30-2021: In collaboration with the MA DPH, the Commissioner of Education released this new guidance for PK-12 public schools. Later that day, Governor Baker spoke in support of the Commissioner’s recommendations.
  • 08-24-2021: the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) granted the Commissioner of Education authority to mandate masks for all public K-12 students, educators, and staff through October 1. This is to ensure schools fully reopen safely and to provide time for more students and educators to get vaccinated.

There are inconsistencies in the guidance from the AAP, the CDC, and the MA DPH. What are the health and safety rules that HPS will follow in the upcoming school year?

Haverhill Public Schools has consistently followed the guidance from the CDC and MA DPH, when MA DPH mandates actions Haverhill must meet or exceed that guidance, in an effort to avoid confusion and keep students in school, we will continue to do so. The simplest way to frame the health and safety protocols and expectations for the upcoming school year is this—for the most part, HPS will start the school year the same way we ended it.

We have many mitigation measures in place in our schools; here is a brief summary of just a few:

  • Masks are required for all students and staff, vaccinated or unvaccinated, when indoors and on school buses.
  • Physical distancing will be required while eating indoors and during defined activities.
  • Outdoors is still the safest place to be, especially during food consumption, and we will encourage as much outdoor time as possible for as long as the weather allows.
  • Windows will remain open whenever possible in classrooms and on school buses to encourage airflow.

I’m vaccinated. Will I need to wear a mask in the upcoming school year?

Yes. Consistent with the state mandate and the CDC’s current guidance, all Haverhill Public Schools students and staff—vaccinated and unvaccinated—are required to wear a well-fitting mask when they return to school in the fall. This will be reassessed October 1, 2021 in compliance with the DESE mask mandate.

Effective August 12, 2021, all students, staff, and visitors—regardless of vaccination status—must wear masks indoors while in any Haverhill Public Schools facilities. Masks are not required:

  1. when outside
  2. when an individual works alone or in a segregated space (e.g., cubicle)
  3. when socially distanced and eating.

All individuals must be masked when moving about the building, any accommodations to the mask policy must be coordinated with school administration.

Will masks be required on school buses?

Yes. Passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses in order to comply with CDC mandates. Haverhill Public Schools school buses must have windows open at all times.

Will HPS require additional physical distancing when we return to school?

In the new school year, everyone will return to in-person learning. Unfortunately, a remote learning program is no longer an option, which puts more pressure on physical space. With the new in-person only learning requirement, we have more students in our schools and less space, making it more challenging to physically distance at six (6) feet when eating. While there is no DESE mandate to physical distance, HPS will strive to keep students at a minimum of three (3) feet apart during classes and when eating. This will help us to minimize the need for contact tracing, quarantining and testing in the “Test and Stay” program.

Will Haverhill be following the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s “Test and Stay” recommendations?

Yes. Haverhill is adopting the DESE’s “Test and Stay” protocol. The goal of “Test and Stay” is to allow students and staff to remain in school as safely as possible while lessening the burden of quarantine on students, their families, teachers, and school administrators. Under the “Test and Stay” approach, students who come into contact with an individual that tests positive will have the option to quarantine or “Test and Stay.” Those who participate in the “Test and Stay” program do not need to quarantine.

  • The “Test and Stay” program is a daily nasal swab for seven (7) days following exposure. For your child and/or a staff member to be eligible for this program, we must have a signed consent (coming soon!) on file before testing can occur. If we do NOT have a consent form on file, your child will need to quarantine for a minimum of seven (7) days [PCR test after day five (5), if negative, return on day eight (8); or quarantine for ten (10) days without testing].
  • We now know much more about SARS-CoV-2 than we did in the past. With an array of effective mitigation strategies in place, including strict PK-12 masking protocols and higher vaccination rates, we feel confident that the “Test and Stay” strategy will keep our students and staff safe. Furthermore, we believe that PK-12 masking is a key strategy in our ability to sustain in-person learning for all our children.
  • Those who do not consent to test and stay must be quarantined. Those having a negative PCR test on day five (5) of quarantine may return on day eight (8), those that do not test will quarantine for ten (10) days.
  • HHS athletes who provide proof of vaccination or release of information for HPS to gather this information are required to participate in the test and stay program if they are deemed as a close contact but are not required to participate in pooled testing.

Will Haverhill Public Schools continue to participate in a pooled testing program?

Yes. We will participate in three types of voluntary COVID-19 testing programs as outlined below. All students participating in in-school testing will need a consent on file.

  • Symptomatic Testing: Individuals (vaccinated or unvaccinated) who become ill while at school will be tested using BinaxNOW nasal swabs. Under no circumstances should families send their symptomatic children to school for testing.
  • Test and Stay: Individuals (vaccinated) who are close contacts will be tested as described above
  • Pooled Testing: We will continue to offer pooled testing. combining the same type of specimen from several people and conducting one laboratory test on the combined pool of specimens to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Pooled tests that return positive results will require each specimen in the pool to be retested individually to determine which individual(s) are positive.

Will there be assigned seating this year?

Yes. Whenever possible, seats should be assigned, and HPS will strive to keep students at least three (3) feet apart indoors to minimize the need for contact tracing and testing in the “Test and Stay” program. In some cases, it may be necessary to use tables. We plan to continue our contact tracing efforts, so assigned seating in classrooms remains important. Children will wear masks on buses and windows will be kept open at all times; therefore, assigned seating is no longer required on school buses according to DESE.

My child is immunocompromised and in-person learning does not feel safe to me. Is there a remote option this year?

Unfortunately, remote learning is no longer an option in the upcoming school year per the Commissioner of Education. Pathways that existed prior to the pandemic still exist, these include offering home/hospital tutoring programs due to a documented medical condition, three statewide single district virtual schools, homeschooling, and other options in narrow circumstances.

What if my child has COVID-19 related absences from symptoms, illness, or quarantine? Can they participate in the class virtually?

Discussions are ongoing about the ability to provide some form of remote learning for students on quarantine – please stay tuned.

What about student absences when they are exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms?

Prior to the pandemic, it was common for HPS students and staff to “push through” and show up at school when they had no fever but they were exhibiting other symptoms, such as a minor respiratory illness. For obvious reasons, this practice takes on potential harmful consequences during a pandemic. Students and staff who are sick must stay home if they experience COVID-19-like symptoms or a cold. We are actively working to address the balance of increased student absences from school and course completion, particularly at the high school level.

Those who value education know that every second of instructional time counts. However, we want to underscore that this should never be the mindset when it comes at the expense of your health and well-being. We remind students and families who worry about absences and are tempted to go to school even when they have COVID-19 symptoms that there are no additional consequences for student absences. Our staff members understand the importance of flexibility during the pandemic, and we will continue to work with students and families to get children caught up if they have COVID-19 related illnesses or absences.

Those vaccinated or unvaccinated with major symptoms must test for COVID-19. In vaccinated people major symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Body aches

Vaccinated individuals with these symptoms should inform their school nurse and report the symptoms and stay home from school or work until the situation is further assessed.

Guidance for Students and Families:

  • Prior to school or getting on the bus: Families should assess their child’s state of wellness before leaving home for school. It is expected that each family will assess each of their children every day for symptoms before the child comes to school

If the student has any symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home from school. The family should notify their school nurse that the child will be absent and the reason for the absence. Families should report the absence. The school nurse will follow-up with the family regarding the child’s symptoms, when the child was seen by a medical professional and any testing that was done. The child can return to school once cleared by the school nurse.

What are the health and safety rules for the Haverhill Performing Arts?

We know that the health and safety protocols imposed on the Performing Arts have been especially challenging for our young musicians, performers, and staff. In March of this year, DESE updated this guidance for courses requiring additional safety considerations.

Updated CDC guidance is based on a July 2021 study that shows that vaccinated people are able to transmit the virus and that the Delta variant is more transmissible than the original virus. For this reason, HPS must continue to exercise caution with large public gatherings.

What are the current travel restrictions? Will I be able to travel out of state without a quarantine?

We anticipate that many families will have questions about travel, particularly as it relates to contact tracing rules and quarantine. We are currently reviewing travel guidance in accordance with the State and CDC guidelines. When we finalize our travel protocols, we will make them available.

The Massachusetts COVID-19 Travel Guidance is the most up to date guidelines and references CDC guidance. This guidance suggests that if you are vaccinated there are no restrictions on domestic travel and you can travel freely. The CDC’s recommendations for unvaccinated people include a viral test three (3) to five (5) days upon one’s return and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. More information regarding the HPS travel guidelines will follow.

DESE indicates that it will no longer publicly report COVID-19 positive cases in schools. Will Haverhill continue to publish this data?

Yes! Transparency and trust are vital as we continue to educate students in a pandemic. You can count on us to share the information and data about the number of COVID-19 positive cases in our schools. We will continue to monitor this data and stay in close contact with the Haverhill Board of Health. HPS will continue to share COVID-19 information in multiple ways:
When we receive information about a new case, principals notify school community members in writing every time.
Any close contacts are identified and contacted within 24 hours by Haverhill Public Schools nurses or the City of Haverhill’s Public Health Department. Aggregate COVID-19 trends are monitored and publicly reported on the HPS COVID 19 Dashboard and shared in district communications.

If I test positive for COVID-19, when can I return to school?

All individuals (regardless of vaccination status) who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for a minimum of ten (10) days after symptom onset (or specimen collection date if asymptomatic).

Return to school will be based on a minimum of ten (10) days of isolation time and your symptoms have improved.

Repeat testing prior to return to school is not recommended. Please do not participate in pooled testing programs for at least 90 days after a positive test.

Will students ever need to quarantine? If so, how will quarantining work when there are no remote learning options?

Yes. When any individual tests positive, the individual will be required to isolate, regardless of vaccine status.
If unvaccinated individuals, are identified as close contacts due to an in-school exposure, they may elect to participate in the “Test and Stay” program (parental/adult consent will be required for in-school testing), the student member may remain in school as long as they are asymptomatic and their daily BinaxNOW test remains negative. Close contacts exposed to individuals within the same household are not eligible for “Test and Stay” and must be quarantined.

What about sports?

Haverhill Public Schools is a member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and participates in the Merrimack Valley Conference (MVC). Throughout the pandemic, superintendents from these MVC districts met to determine a collective approach to keeping our student athletes safe during the pandemic. The MVC is in the process of finalizing its athletic guidance. Once there is guidance from the MIAA and MVC, the Haverhill School Committee will review and consider that guidance.
Current HPS policy does not require masks for students or spectators during outdoor sports. There are no current gathering limitations however, spectators will be encouraged to socially distance, Students must wear masks on buses to and from sporting events. More detail will be provided to athletes and their families by our Athletic Department.

Will breakfast and lunch be free again this year?

Yes! All Haverhill students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch through the Community Eligibility Provision.

Will alcohol-based hand sanitizer be used in schools this year as an alternative to hand washing?

Yes, the CDC and DPH recommend frequent hand washing to limit the spread of COVID-19 or, if hand washing facilities are not readily available, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, per guidance and permission from the Department of Public Health (MA PDH).

Haverhill Public Schools utilizes alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the district in all school and operational buildings. If you would like to “opt” your child out of our medical protocols to utilize alcohol-based hand sanitizer, please provide written documentation of your request to not have your child utilize the alcohol-based hand sanitizer to your building principal and school nurse.