BPS Weekly Update - 1/7/22

BPS Weekly Update - 1/7/22
Posted on 01/07/2022
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Good Afternoon,

Covid Update
Our messages from this point forward will start framing the COVID situation differently than our messages prior to winter break. Due to the high percent positivity rate in our community, we will be shifting our handling of COVID from an individual infection perspective to an acceptance that individual COVID exposure is something that we can’t completely prevent. Looking ahead, we will focus on preparedness. Preparedness will mean family partnership is more important than ever. While this does not mean that we will be stopping our mitigation strategies of masking and distancing, it does mean that we are looking at more sustainable practices that will allow us to continue to support staff, students, and families.

First, the student and staff absence Data from this week.

Student absences this week hovered around 15-percent with 519 absences on Tuesday, 540 absences on Wednesday and 599 absences on Thursday. We also saw steadily increasing absences with district staff with 77 absences Tuesday, 79 Wednesday, and 86 on Thursday. The uncertainty around staffing and student absences due to the level of contagiousness with the Omicron variant leaves us with a great deal of uncertainty as we head into next week.

On Wednesday by mid-day we reported 100 new cases of covid to the Department of Education COVID reporting portal. The final total on known cases this week was 190 cases (130 students and 60 staff).

Second, what this level of absence means.

It is clear from the data that some of our mitigation measures can no longer be sustained with the percentage of positive cases. As stated above, we will continue to implement mitigation measures that we can control - mask wearing, distancing, required vaccines for employees, and air quality monitoring. We also strongly encourage families to get their children vaccinated and boosted, if applicable, and to keep children home if symptomatic or if there is a known positive case in the house.

The community positivity rate for the last two weeks, which was updated on the state Covid dashboard yesterday, was just over 15-percent. Given the number of cases at this time, we can’t continue to accurately contact trace. We will make every attempt to communicate with families if there is a symptomatic, positive case in a classroom or on a Team, athletic or middle school, or in a certain grade level. We are at the point of assuming that exposure, either in school or in the community, is occurring.

Contact Tracing and Test and Stay
Without the ability to accurately contact trace, it does not make sense to continue with the Test and Stay program and we are considering ending this part of our mitigation. Asymptomatic students, who test negative on a rapid antigen test, can still be contagious and spread the infection in school. We will assume that sick students are sick students and will send them home. Our hope is that families will keep students home if they are sick, with COVID or any other illness, until they are better or until isolation guidelines are met, if applicable. In addition, parents should keep children home if there is a positive case in the house until quarantine guidelines are met. Our hope is that parents will want to test their child for COVID as they would with strep throat, but we can’t control this action. To support this hope, our plan is to have access to more rapid antigen testing that we can make available to families and staff moving forward.

Length of Isolation and Quarantine
Parents should follow the current MA Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines on isolation and quarantine if they know their child was exposed, is positive with covid, or if there is a positive case in the household. Current DPH guidelines state that if a child is fully vaccinated, they are not required to quarantine if exposed. Although there are different definitions of what it means to be “fully vaccinated” (DESE definition does not include a booster dose while DPH definition does), we believe there will be agreement on this definition in the near future. While vaccination remains a personal choice, vaccinating your children will mean they do not need to quarantine if exposed to a positive case of covid which is an important part of our ongoing management.

We want to thank all of our staff for their amazing efforts to help keep our schools running during uncertain times. Clearly, we are in a transition in regards to COVID. As stated, we will work to mitigate what we can in school and we will be asking families to work with us to keep symptomatic children home no matter what is causing their illness and to not send children back to school until they are well.

Let’s Talk About It
Our third session of Let’s Talk About It led by Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Ray Porch will be this coming Wednesday, January 12 at 7 p.m. You can register to participate in this virtual session by going to bit.ly/letstalkburlington.

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