We are in the process of putting together a full document that will discuss the opening of schools for the FY22 school year. This will be sent out to all families next week. However, I wanted to send out a quick FAQ document that might be helpful as you plan to prepare your students over the next few weeks.
Please enjoy the last few weeks of summer!
Laura S. Chesson, Superintendent
1. How will you ensure my child is kept safe if they return to school?
There is no way to remove all the risk associated with returning to in-person school, and parents/families with students who have compromised medical conditions should consult with their physician before selecting an in-person option. However, for the vast majority of students, the medical research to date on COVID-19 is clear that children, particularly those in elementary and middle school, are less likely than adults to be infected.
Nearly 18 months into this pandemic, we know that our safety procedures, executed well, can make a huge difference in preventing transmission. We have the benefit of learning from our reopening last fall and our full reopening this spring. The combination of vaccinations for those who are eligible, wearing of masks/face coverings, our significantly upgraded HVAC systems, hand-washing/sanitizing, and staying home at the first sign of a symptom greatly reduce the spread of the virus.
2. Who needs to wear a mask or face covering, and when do they have to be worn?
Masks have been found to be effective in reducing transmission, so all students, regardless of vaccination status in Pre-K and above are required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth at all times when inside school buildings, with the exception of meals and mask breaks at this time as approved by the school committee on August 11th. All visitors and parents must wear masks when inside school buildings. All vaccinated staff must wear masks when in the presence of students or unvaccinated staff members when inside the building. All students and staff must wear masks when riding on school-provided transportation (busses and vans).
3. Will students have to wear masks all year?
The policy that the GDRSC put into place on August 11th, states that if the vaccination rate of staff and students in a school building (GDRHS, GDRMS South, GDRMS North, Florence Roche, Swallow-Union, and Boutwell) reaches 90% or higher then the Superintendent may, after consultation with the local Boards of Health and our district pediatrician, bring a proposal to the GDRSC that masking may be eased in that building. That proposal would have to be approved by a vote of the school committee.
4. Are there exceptions to wearing masks or face coverings?
Exceptions to mask/face covering requirements will be made for those for whom it is not possible due to medical conditions, disability impact, or other health or safety factors. Last year we had about 7 exemptions out of 2375 students. Should you believe that your student qualifies for such an exemption please contact Jill Greene, Director of Student Services at (978) 448-5505.
5. Can families send children to school without a mask/face covering?
Families of students in grades Pre-K and up should send their child to school with a mask. Schools have been given the funding to purchase extra face masks for students who forget to bring theirs to school or who cannot afford to purchase one on their own. If a student arrives at school without a mask, the student will be offered a disposable mask. If the student agrees to wear the mask, the student will move on to class. If the student refuses to wear the mask, the principal will contact the student’s parent or guardian and the student will remain in the main office until such time as the parent arrives.
6. Are vaccinations required for students?
Vaccinations are not required at this time. However, the CDC, MDPH, and DESE strongly encourage families to vaccinate students ages 12 - 19. To support this goal, GDRSD will be sponsoring a vaccination clinic for students, staff, and families on August 31st. Please contact Justin Williams at 978-448-5505 if you have any questions.
7. Will students be assigned seats on buses and in cafeterias?
Students will not be assigned seats on buses. Bus ridership varies significantly from day to day and morning versus afternoon. Not assigning seats will allow students to spread out to the largest extent possible depending on the ridership of that day or run. Contact tracing, if necessary, will be done using the daily video and audiotapes of bus runs.
Students will self-assign their seats for lunch. Once selected that seat will be their seat for the entire semester/quarter/trimester (depending on the grade level). Administrators will create seating charts based on these selected seats.
8. Is remote learning an option for my student for this year?
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has regulated that schools may only offer in-person learning, five days a week. The only exception to this would be a student that is so medically fragile that they would not have been attending school in person pre-COVID. DESE has provided us with significant documentation we must submit in order to have an exception approved for an individual student. A student with this profile would most likely have received instruction differently in the FY 18 and FY19 school years. If you believe your student has this type of significant medical profile please contact Jill Greene, Director of Student Services to discuss your specific student details.