To: Holyoke Community
From: HPS Reopening Leadership team
Date: Monday, June 29, 2020
Reopening Leadership Team Update Memo #7
The HPS Reopening Leadership team met on Thursday, June 25. Our meeting focused on DESE’s Initial Fall School Reopening Memo. The health and safety requirements for in-person learning outlined in this document were carefully reviewed by the MA COVID-19 Command Center’s Medical Advisory Board, which is comprised of physicians and other health experts, and many other members of the MA medical community. Members of our team were also able to join two calls with DESE to ask questions about the memo, including one with presentations and endorsements by Dr. Sandra Nelson, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and mother of school-aged children, and Dr. Lloyd Fisher, a pediatrician, incoming president of the MA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and father of school-aged children.
We are still processing and understanding the information found in this memo. We wanted to highlight a few components of the initial guidance that are particularly important as we plan for the next school year. The following bullet points are all direct quotes from the memo.
- Our goal for the fall is to safely bring back as many students as possible to in-person school settings, to maximize learning and address our students’ holistic needs. With the information provided in this memo, districts and schools should begin planning for a fall return that includes multiple possibilities, with a focus first and foremost on getting our students back into school buildings.
- With adherence to a comprehensive set of critical health and safety requirements, we can bring our students, staff, and families safely back to school… Based on the combination of health and safety requirements and rigorous protocols that we are putting in place for the fall, we believe the risk of transmission in schools is likely lower than the risks of transmission in many other settings. Furthermore, based on available data and effective implementation of critical health and safety practices, the rate of in-school transmissions has been low.
- However, what can often get lost in long lists of practices is that it is not one mitigation strategy, but a combination of all these strategies taken together that will substantially reduce the risk of transmission. In other words, establishing a culture of health and safety in our schools that focuses on regularly enforcing these important practices is more important than any one measure… At the same time, a minimum physical distance of three feet has been established when combined with the other measures outlined in this list of safety requirements.
- (Note: The strategies most prominently highlighted included: wearing face coverings/masks, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick.)
- (Districts and schools are required to) prepare a reopening plan that addresses three possible learning models for this fall: in-person learning with new safety requirements, a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, and the continuation of remote learning (to ensure continuity of learning throughout the school year, even if circumstances change).
- Families also play a critical role in supporting the new culture of health and safety that each school must establish. Most importantly, families can help mitigate the transmission of COVID19 in their school communities by checking their children daily for any COVID-19 symptoms and keeping them home from school if they are sick or have had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. Families can also contribute by supporting the use of masks in school and on the bus, arranging alternate transportation whenever possible, communicating with teachers, school leaders and local authorities, and continuing to follow state guidance on health and safety outside of school
As mentioned, this guidance is the initial guidance only. DESE will provide more guidance in the coming weeks, in areas such as transportation, athletics, extracurricular activities, vaccines, and mask breaks.
Remember to check out our return to school web page and our summer school offerings as well! To register for summer school please visit our summer learning webpage. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
- Extended School Year: Jill Hughes, Pupil Services Coordinator for Extended School Year Services at firstname.lastname@example.org,
- Elementary/Middle School Programs: Michelle Macklin, Director of Extended Learning Programs at email@example.com
- High School Programs: Sheila Fallon, HHS Summer School coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mickey Buhl, Executive Director of Opportunity Academy at email@example.com
If you have questions and suggestions about returning to school, please submit them on our Contact Us Form at https://www.hps.holyoke.ma.us/about-us/contact/. We will ensure that our reopening leadership team considers every question and suggestion.