Good evening Haverhill families,
I am pleased to share with you that before winter break, Haverhill Public Schools was able to acquire and distribute to every staff member a COVID-19 Rapid Test Kit. Unlike other school districts in Massachusetts, our staff have the kits in their possession and have been asked to test tomorrow before returning to school on Monday. It remains our intent to return to school on Monday, January 3, 2022. Should there be a change in that plan due to critical staffing shortages, we will notify you Sunday evening.
Additionally, I would like to share with you guidance that we have received from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) based on the recently updated guidance from the CDC on December 28, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) advice on December 29, 2021, http://mass.gov/.
DESE has adopted the CDC and MDPH guidance for isolation, effective immediately. Important updates include:
Update on Home Tests. Home test results are now sufficient for reporting positive cases. Although it is recommended to follow-up with a PCR test, we will no longer require the PCR test as confirmation or ask staff and students to follow-up with a PCR test after testing positive during our Test and Stay Program. Therefore, we will follow all guidance based on a home test result.
Exposure of a COVID-19 Positive Individual: Close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual may participate in the Test and Stay Program or choose to quarantine. The protocols for exemptions and Test and Stay remain the same. The quarantine protocols have been updated (see below).
Updated Traditional Protocol Quarantine: Individuals must quarantine at least 5 days from the date of exposure. An individual may return to school after 5 days, returning on day 6, provided that they remain asymptomatic, and conduct active monitoring for symptoms through day 10, self-isolate if symptoms develop, and adhere to strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Note:
- If an individual has symptoms at the time they are designated as a close contact or within the 5 days following initial exposure, they follow the protocol for symptomatic individuals.
- If an individual tests positive at any time, they follow the protocol for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
Best practice would also include an antigen or PCR test for COVID-19 at day 5 after exposure for all those exposed. An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional.
Prior to the break we began seeing an increase in positive cases in our schools which put an increased burden on our nursing staff. One of the most time-consuming tasks the nurses have taken on is contact tracing. To assure that our nurses have the time to care for the students in front of them properly, we are revising our method of notifying families that their child has been a close contact. Moving forward, instead of a phone call to the parent informing them that their student is a close contact, our first point of contact to families will be an email providing details and needed next steps.
I want to encourage families that have not yet consented to their child’s participation in school-based COVID-19 testing to do so now:
- symptomatic testing for students who show symptoms of COVID-19 at school,
- routine COVID safety checks to prevent the spread of the virus undetected among students who are not showing symptoms, and
- test and stay for students who may have been exposed while in school but are not showing symptoms to provide electronic consent now.
Students only participate with permission from a parent or guardian. The following link provides answers to many questions that you might have and the opportunity to sign the electronic consent form (https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma?district=null).
Happy New Year, and thank you for your patience as we adapt to these new expectations.
Margaret Marotta Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools