August 5, 2021
Haga clic aquí para leer en español Salem Public Schools are submitting the following recommendations for consideration by the Salem School Committee for a Safe and Healthy Return to School for the 2021-22 school year. Background: Over the summer, the world, the United States and now Massachusetts witnessed a change in the COVID-19 pandemic due to the Delta variant. There are two key lessons about this new variant that inform our opening plans:
The goal of this recommendation is to ensure the safe opening of schools in September and to minimize disruption to learning for our students and their families. We remain confident and determined to fully open the school this fall with in-person learning for all students. The best way to combat the spread of this virus is to implement a multi-layered approach, with each layer building on the others to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading. In addition to the explicit practices below, these mitigation levels include maintaining good hygienic practices such as hand washing and disinfection and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. We recognize that we may have the flexibility to adjust our plans and strategies based on the effectiveness of our mitigation efforts and data dissemination by the local community in Salem. Recommendation to SPS School Committee: Accordingly, based on the advice of our health care advisors, Salem Public Schools recommend the following mitigation levels for consideration at the School Committee meeting on Monday August 9: 1. COVID-19 Surveillance Tests: Surveillance The tests allow our district to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic cases of COVID-19 that may unknowingly enter our schools and prevent the spread of the virus. Salem has been at the forefront of staff and student surveillance testing, and we will continue to be. We are working with the state on the exact details for this fall, but we will continue to have access to weekly surveillance tests for students and staff. All tests will take place at the school, including follow-up tests. 2. Additional ventilation: Our HVAC (ventilation) systems ensure the introduction of fresh air or the cleaning and filtration of air in our schools. We are performing another review of our HVAC systems and ensuring that all of our HEPA filters are updated for the school year. We will also be introducing substantial additional HEPA filters to our cafeterias and will continue to provide free air circulation where possible with open windows on buses and in classrooms.
3. Masks: We recommend that all students and staff be required to wear masks to start the year. Due to the level of contagiousness of this variant and the increased possibility for vaccinated people to have and spread the virus due to the variant, it is essential to reduce the introduction of small droplets and particles by ensuring that all people wear masks inside and on our buses. We have seen strong implementation in our schools last year. 4. Meal: SPS will encourage all meals to be taken outdoors whenever possible and weather permitting. If eating takes place indoors, there will be a minimum of three feet of physical distance between individuals as well as additional ventilation in these spaces. 5. Physical Distancing: SPS recommends relaxing most physical distancing requirements when other layers of attenuation, including masks, are in place. As noted above, physical distancing requirements of at least three feet will be in place during meals and mask breaks that take place indoors, and for all higher breathing activities (e.g. choir, education physical). SPS will work with educators on the detailed recommendation for each of the upper respiratory activities pending further guidance from the state. In addition to the above strategies, we continue to stress the importance of the vaccine as the most critical strategy to fight the virus. We are working with our partners to make it accessible to everyone in our community, including organizing another vaccination clinic this Saturday August 7 (register here). For those 12 years and older, the vaccine is the most important strategy to reduce the risk of this virus. Additionally, state guidelines still allow those vaccinated not to quarantine if they are in close contact. We also look forward to working with our union partners and school nurses and health workers to better understand the extent of immunization in our school community. Be aware that the Salem School Committee will discuss these recommendations at a special meeting on Monday, August 9 at 4 p.m. Information on how to participate in this meeting can be found in the agenda on the city’s website. In addition, SPS has been in contact with the Salem Board of Health, which is meeting on Tuesday, August 10 regarding city-wide policies. We will also be hosting a forum for families, staff and community members with district staff and our medical advisors on Tuesday August 24 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to share more details on our school opening plans and to respond. to questions you might have. We are grateful to every member of our community – our students, staff, families and partners. Last year, when we launched our reopening work, we put forward four core values: well-being, fairness, flexibility and community. We have seen our community come together to put our students first, live by those values and demonstrate our ability to adapt as we learn more about the virus. We appreciate your continued support as we enter a new school year where we are fiercely committed to minimizing disruption for our children and ensuring a healthy, positive and prosperous year for all. Truly, Stephen K. Zrike, Jr., Ed.D.