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Superintendent's Message

Concord Middle School

Parent Survey Regarding Expanded In-Person Learning

March 2, 2021

Dear Families:

As I mentioned this weekend, we are actively discussing plans to expand in-person learning time.  Below is the link to a very brief survey for your input.  It is important to remember that we are following the Governor’s mandates and looking to determine how we can attain them.  This may require changes to the current safety protocols so we need your input as to your level of comfort and if it impacts your plan to send your child as well as to understand your priorities.  Likely this will be the first of several surveys so the data is intended to be high level and not be prescriptive to our decision-making.

Please complete the survey for each child in your family so the information is specific to that age group.

Parent Survey March 2021

The survey will be available until Friday, March 5 at noon.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions.

Best,

Laurie

 

10 Day Quarantine for Close Contacts

March 1, 2021

Dear Families:

We learned of 2 student COVID cases today:

1 CCHS

1 CMS

Both students were not in school during the contagious period.

As of today, we will be applying the CDC and MDPH approved 10-day quarantine protocol for all close contacts.  The lower virus rates and availability and efficiency of testing allow for this to safely be applied in the school environment.  As has been required, all close contacts should test at approximately the fifth day after exposure and provide a negative PCR test prior to returning to school.  Please let us know if you have any questions.

Best,

Laurie

 

An Important Letter Regarding Spring 2021

February 28, 2021

Dear Families:

This afternoon, I offer thoughts about the upcoming months.  The superintendents met with the Commissioner of Education late last week.  It was clear that the state is expecting to mandate the full-time return of K-5 students in early April.  Middle and high school will have full return dates that follow.  Full-time remote learning will remain an option for families.  As has often happened, the districts were given no notice of the announcement or any guidance to accompany it.

Here, we were discussing the expansion of in-person time with better weather and lower virus rates.  We are shifting that discussion now to meet the expected mandates.  It is important to note that change is going to require a great deal of decision-making, logistics, and planning just as it did last summer.  We already spent the late part of last week and all weekend starting the process.

Not unexpectedly, we are hearing from parents as to their hopes.  We read every email and are aware of circulating petitions.  Since we want to be sure everyone’s voice is heard, we will send a parent survey over the next couple of days and would encourage you to use that as a vehicle to share your thoughts.  Subsequent surveys will occur with staff and very importantly, with older students.  We have always known that many people want their kids in school more and suspect this will confirm that.  The hope is that the survey will also offer insight as to how we accomplish that and what is most important since there will be choices to make.

We completely agree and understand the concerns about student mental health.  All of our drive to open and stay open has been because we believe being in school is better for kids than a fully remote environment.   We agree that more time in school will offset the impact of isolation and limited social activity.  This might lead us to creative approaches to return students so we maximize this need, especially at the secondary level where the alphabetical cohort split has been very difficult.

Any changes to plans will continue to follow the science.  Based on the science, we purposefully have the most conservative safety protocols in place.  That served us well so far.  We opened on September 9 and remained open throughout as a result.   Modifying any of those pieces will increase risk.   In conjunction, then, there will be more quarantines and possible school closures since we will not be as confident in preventing school transmission.  There will need to be a common understanding of that.  As reminders of the effectiveness so far, updated data points are included at the bottom of this email.

As the plans are being developed, I share thoughts on what would benefit us the most right now.

  • Limit your social events, even with close family and friends

We continue to see positive cases result from small, intimate gatherings of extended family and close friends.  We know people are trying to be careful.  Please just know that even those you see often could have COVID and you won’t know until after everyone is exposed, often leading to a cluster.

  • Enroll your child in the pooled testing

This will be a critical piece in maintaining school safety.  The current 25% participation rate is inadequate for significant assurance of limiting asymptomatic transmission.  If you have questions, please ask them.  I’ll refer you to the FAQ document that we shared earlier.

  • Advocate for elimination of the MCAS with those in the Massachusetts State House

We are deeply involved in the preparation for the test since the requirement is still in place.  This is a distraction from preparing for the return of more students to the classroom and will take from precious instructional time with little value later.

  • Advocate for teachers to get vaccinated with those in the Massachusetts State House

The media statements are true.  Teachers do not need to be vaccinated to open school.  We have demonstrated that since September.  As we increase risk , however, it is a critical part of the elements that will allow us to do so comfortably and safely.

The school year has been a success so far in that we served all students daily, worked collaboratively and collectively, and supported one another.  I share a huge appreciation and respect for our teachers and school staff who were determined to bring kids back to school initially, created a plan that was safe and met educational needs, and dedicated themselves to the work it took for the year to be highly productive and effective. Parents partnered with us in an intimate and equally dedicated fashion.   As usually happens in Concord and Carlisle, it was clear that the entire community invested in returning students to school offering emotional, fiscal, and structural supports in many, many ways.

The extraordinary relationships have brought us this far.  I have no doubt that they will serve us well during this next phase of the journey.

Best,

Laurie

 

COVID Positive Cases

Since Friday, we learned of 3 student cases as outlined below.  None of the students were in school while they were contagious.

1 CCHS student

2 Alcott students

Asymptomatic Pooled Testing

Last week, we tested almost 800 students and 250 staff.  All of the pools were negative which helps build confidence in the safety of the school environment.  The consent form for this week is closed.  Anyone who enrolls through Aspen will be included during the week of March 8.

COVID Dashboards

The District Dashboard is updated as of today with our current total case count at 141 since September.

The DPH Community Dashboard indicates that Concord is in the yellow category and Carlisle is in gray.

 

Asymptomatic Testing Consent Reopened

February 26, 2021

Dear Families:

Thank you so much to those who participated in the first week of asymptomatic pooled testing.  It has gone very smoothly.  We used the week to streamline the consent process so that it is now housed in Aspen.  If you would like to enroll your child and have not yet submitted consent, please go into Aspen.  In the same spot as the symptom screener, you will see a link to the sign-off.  It looks like this:

Click here to give permission for COVID testing for your student

If you already provided consent, then you do not need to do anything at this time.  Thanks to all of your amazing kids too for their help this week

Best,

Laurie

 

Updates February 24 2021

February 24, 2021

Dear Families:

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful day!  A few updates this afternoon:

COVID Cases

We learned of 3 student cases over the past few days:

2 CCHS students that did not require contact tracing

1 CMS student that did require tracing that was complete this morning.

Asymptomatic Testing

The student testing process is off to a very successful start.  We will reopen enrollment shortly for those wishing to engage.

In-Person Learning Time 

As you saw, the Governor and Commissioner announced plans to increase in-person learning time for students.  We are learning the state’s plans as they are shared with us which started today.

As I shared at last night’s School Committee meeting, we had already planned to review possible options this week after returning from the break to increase time in the schools.  The warmer weather and lower case counts allow for some different ideas.  Of course, we need to do this in balance with the safety measures that have been so effective and the structures that have served us so well since we opened on September 9 and allowed us to remain open ever since.  Our starting point is different than many districts given that and the fact that our students have had access to instruction five days per week through in-person and live streaming.  We will use this week and next week to craft the options.  I will bring those options to the School Committee at the March 9th meeting.

Our work to date has been built primarily on strong connections and relationships between teachers and parents, leadership and union, community, and schools.  I am sure that this work will continue into the spring with those same foundations and positive outcomes.

Best,
Laurie

 

Updates February 21 2021

February 21, 2021

Dear Families:

I hope you had a wonderful break.  I have just a few COVID-related updates and reminders tonight.

Over the break, we learned of the following positive COVID cases:

2 Thoreau students

1 Alcott student

1 Willard student

2 CMS students

1 CCHS student

1 CCHS Staff (from the asymptomatic pooled testing)

All but one case involved no school exposure.  There were no student close contacts in all 8 situations, some of which were related through familial connections.  These cases bring the total case count to 135.

Tomorrow, we look forward to beginning the asymptomatic pooled testing of students.  At this time, almost 1300 students across all of the schools are slated to participate.   For the moment, we have turned off the consent form to enroll so we can organize the logistics for this week’s testing.  We will open it again later this week since we want to encourage as many families as possible to participate.

If you traveled out of state, please be sure to send negative test results following your return home to the school nurses prior to a return to in-person learning this week.

Your partnership, support, and collaboration is so appreciated.  We look forward to this next phase of the school year!
Best,

Laurie

Positive Cases and the Break

February 11, 2021

Dear Families:

Today, we had two new positive student cases at CMS.  One case required contact tracing which is complete.  Also, as we look forward to one more day before the start of the break, I offer a few reminders.

If you travel out of state, our protocol requires a test upon return to Massachusetts.  If you previously tested positive in the past 90 days, you will need to provide evidence of the positive test.  We did see asymptomatic cases following travel at the close of the December break, so if you go please consider returning early so there are multiple days between your return and Monday, February 22.  Thank you for the cooperation and collaboration with this process.

I also offer a reminder that even simple playdates and small social gatherings with people you know well can lead to transmission.  We’ve seen that multiple times over.  We know it is hard but remaining at home with immediate family is the safest plan.

Since most staff will be on vacation next week, please use the COVID email account for correspondence from all of the schools like we did over the holidays.  That address will be monitored throughout the week so you can get a timely response.  The address is:

covid@concordps.org

I find it remarkable that we have been able to successfully be in school and maintain consistency since September.  That is a result of the investment and commitment of everyone.  Thank you so very much.

Best,

Laurie

 

CCHS Racial Incident

February 10, 2021

Dear Families:

Tonight, I write to share information communicated by CCHS Principal Mastrullo earlier this afternoon about a racist incident that occurred at CCHS yesterday and was reported to us today.  Mr. Mastrullo’s letter is posted here.  As stated in his letter, we will not tolerate actions that make school an unsafe place, physically or emotionally, for any students.

The district has very actively continued its work in anti-racism and cultural competency.  This work has been a top priority this year.  Regular updates have been a focus at an ongoing series of Joint School Committees.  All of those presentations are recorded and posted on the Cultural Competency and Anti-Racism school webpage.

Also of great importance is the opportunity for families to talk with young people about these types of events.  We held a webinar last spring about talking to children about race which is linked below:

How to Have Difficult Conversations about Race with your Children Webinar

Recording

Presentation

Our schools must be inclusive, welcoming, accepting environments.  Thank you for partnering with us to accept nothing less.

Best,

Laurie

 

Alcott COVID Update

February 10, 2021

Dear Families:

I write to provide an update at Alcott.  We learned of a case late last night of a positive student case that required contact tracing.  The student was exposed through a family connection.  This leads us to believe the cases of school transmission are still contained and so school can remain open based on the input of the local and state health officials.  Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Best,

Laurie

Updates and Reminders

February 8, 2021

Dear Families,

I write to share a number of updates and reminders.

Positive COVID Cases

This weekend, we learned of 2 CCHS student cases.  Both students have been out of school for an extensive period.  In addition to a CCHS adult case today, we learned of an Alcott student.  The student has not been in school due to quarantine and has no school contacts so we know the case is not connected to last week’s cases.

The District Dashboard is updated as of Saturday morning.  The total case count since we opened is 124.

The DPH Community Dashboard from the end of last week is also posted.  Concord remains in the green category.  Carlisle dropped down to the lowest category of gray.

Asymptomatic Testing Webinar and Wednesday Deadline

This afternoon’s webinar regarding asymptomatic testing is linked here.  Thank you to all of the school nurses and nurse leaders Lisa Koski and Meg Jensen for their work on this process.  Our second round of staff testing last week again yielded all negative pools.

The February 2, 2021 email with the detailed information and documentation is linked here.

The form to provide consent for testing after the break is found below.  The deadline to submit the form is Wednesday.

Electronic Consent Form

COVID Email Account Over Break

Again next week, please utilize the district COVID email account for all COVID related correspondence across all of the schools.  We only use it during vacations.  It proved to be a valuable tool in December.

covid@concordps.org

Food Pantry Wednesday, February 10 and 17 1-2 pm

Please see the attached flyer for the details of this week’s Concord food pantry.

It looks like an interesting weather day tomorrow.  We will review the early morning forecast and make decisions then about in-person and remote learning days.  I guess we were bound to have some regular snowfall at some point this winter!

Enjoy the night!

Best,

Laurie

 

 

 

 

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