Response to COVID-19

  • Each school’s administration team prepared edits for the new year’s Student and Family Handbooks. However, we are awaiting guidance on the continued response to COVID-19 as we plan for the reopening of schools. The following sections are highlighted for this special edit as they are directly affected by the health and safety measures that govern our actions to be able to return to in-person schooling among our models of instruction. As guidance continues to be released by the various agencies in the Commonwealth, these sections that would otherwise appear in the annual student and family handbooks will be updated. 

    ATTENDANCE

    Student attendance will be taken daily and in each class meeting. Whether students are in-person, remote, or engaging in their education through the hybrid model, attendance is a key factor in their engagement, growth, and success. In-person attendance will be the same as it traditionally was when schools were operating at full capacity. Remote attendance (for those exclusively remote and on remote weeks in the hybrid model) will be taken during scheduled synchronous instruction. 

    SCHEDULE

    While all schools will have a schedule for instruction, the times for each instructional period will be altered. Each school will release its schedule in the week preceding the reopening of school, which is scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

    FIELD TRIPS

    Field Trips will be considered individually. Safety measures will be among the highest priorities in the evaluation of whether a field trip may be permitted. 

    FOOD SERVICES

    Meal access. The District is evaluating the plan for food services. Families who qualify for free or reduced price meals will continue to have access to district-provided meals regardless of the model in which they are engaged, including students learning from a remote location. 

    Cafeteria use. While we are working to plan the reopening of schools, we anticipate that, in alignment with current state guidance, that students who are present at school will eat at their desks in their assigned classrooms or designated lunch areas. 

    At least in the beginning of the school year and until further notice, students will not use the lunch lines for picking up or purchasing meals. Lunches will be delivered to the students at their designated location.

    Nut-free schools. All schools will operate as nut-free schools. As there are a number of areas that will be designated for snack and/or lunch, there is a greater need to ensure that there is no cross-contamination for students with food allergies. 

    TRANSPORTATION

    Students who will ride the bus will remain consistent as a “bus cohort.” Students will not be permitted to get a bus pass to ride on a bus other than their own; each student will only be assigned to one bus. Students who are in need of bus transportation will be provided a bus pass from the Director of Transportation, and they must show the bus pass to their driver each time they board the bus. 

    Parents/guardians indicating the need for bus transportation on the Family Reopening Schools Survey will be issued a bus pass. If a family did not request a bus pass initially, they may reach out to the Director of Transportation. Families who will be driving their children to school will receive specific guidance from their school’s principal regarding traffic patterns and specific school instructions. 

    The Wellness Committee continues to encourage students who live within a mile of their school to walk to school or ride their bikes. 

    STUDENT PARKING

    At Falmouth High School, the fee will be waived for the 2020-21 school year. 

    ATHLETICS

    The District is awaiting guidance from a special task force of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Administration (MIAA) to know what athletic programming may be offered and in what capacity. 

    STUDENT CLUBS, ORGANIZATIONS

    As they are able, student clubs and organizations are able to continue to meet using online virtual meeting tools. Advisors can assess feasibility. 

    HEALTH, ILLNESS

    Anytime a student feels ill, they should report to the nurse, following their school’s procedure for accessing the school Health Office. If students have any COVID-19 specific symptoms, they will be monitored in a Medical Waiting Room until a parent/guardian arrives to dismiss them. 

    Prevention. DESE emphasized that even as we remain vigilant as the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in school will not be zero. No one strategy, but a combination of all strategies, will substantially reduce the risk of transmission.

    • Staff must monitor themselves for symptoms daily.

    • Students, with the assistance of families, must be monitored daily for symptoms. 

    • Staff and students must stay home if feeling unwell. 

    • Masks are critical to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

      • We will require students second grade and above and all staff to wear masks that adequately cover both their nose and mouth. 

      • Younger children are strongly encouraged to wear masks. 

      • Exceptions will be made for students with medical, behavioral, or other challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings.

      • Masks breaks will be permitted and scheduled throughout the school day as is safe to do.

    • Hand hygiene is equally critical. Students and staff are required to exercise hand hygiene (handwashing or sanitizing) upon arrival to school, before eating, before putting on and taking off masks, and before dismissal.

    • Physical distance greatly reduces the risk of transmission. As COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, putting distance between yourself and others reduces risk. 

      • In classroom settings, when all parties are wearing masks, a minimum of 3 feet of separation is required.

      • If one or both parties are not wearing masks, 6 feet is required.

      • Preschool, kindergarten and first grade students without masks may be 3 feet apart, but no less.

    • Cohorts of students will be assigned a seat. Assigned seating is important because it effectively creates even smaller groups within cohorts which minimize transmission. Seats will be assigned in classrooms, during meals, and on the bus. 

    Quarantine. When students must stay home for quarantine or isolation, teaching and learning will not stop. The school will provide remote learning for students who cannot be in school for any extended period of time.

    • Self-isolation for COVID-19 positive cases is a minimum of 10 days. 

    • People who test positive can resume public activities after 10 days and once they have 

      • gone for 3 days without a fever (and without taking fever-reducing medications like Tylenol)

      • experienced improvement in other symptoms (for example, their cough has gotten much better)

      • received clearance from public health authority contact tracers. Repeat testing prior to return is not recommended. Return to school should be based on time and symptom resolution.

    Symptoms. The single most important thing to do if any of the following symptoms are present is to stay home. Our collective health relies, in part, on individual attention and responsibility. Note that some symptoms of COVID-19 are the same as the flu or a bad cold; please do not assume it is another condition. When in doubt, stay home. 

    List of symptoms:

    • Fever (100.4° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills

    • Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)

    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

    • New loss of taste or smell

    • Sore throat

    • Headache when in combination with other symptoms

    • Muscle aches or body aches

    • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

    • Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms

    • Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms

    Testing. If staff or students have any of these symptoms, they must get a test for active COVID-19 infection prior to returning to school. 

    Local testing sites:

    • Falmouth Hospital Triage Tent; phone 508-862-5595

    • Convenient MD, Falmouth; phone 774-255-3010 and hours of operation 8:00am-8:00pm Mon-Sun

    • CVS East Falmouth Minute Clinic; hours of operation 8:00am-8:00pm Mon-Fri / 9:00am-6:00pm Sat / 9:00am-5:00pm Sun

    Exposure. Close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case should be tested. In school settings, DESE has defined close contacts as students and staff who were within 6 feet for at least 10-15 minutes in a classroom, in other school spaces, and on the bus. In elementary and other school situations where the students are in self-contained classrooms for an extended period, all students/staff within this “cohort” are considered close contacts as they may have been within 6 feet of the person with a positive test result. Possible close contacts should not come back to school until they have been tested or elected instead to self-quarantine for 14 days. If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, then self-isolation is for a minimum of 10 days and until at least three days have passed with no fever and improvement in other symptoms as noted. If the test is negative, the student/staff can return to school if asymptomatic and wearing a mask.

    CORRIDORS

    Passing in the Hallways. To the extent possible, students will move through the school in one-way traffic patterns in the hallways. When that is not possible, only one cohort may move through the hallway at a time to remain separate from other cohorts and staff. 

    Passes. We are awaiting guidance on how to modify protocols for issuing passes. 

    Access to Restrooms. Only one student at a time will be permitted access to the multi-stall restrooms. Common areas, such as restrooms, will be cleaned periodically throughout the day and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected each evening.

    VISITORS TO SCHOOLS

    Until the Commonwealth grants schools full operational capacity, visitors will not be permitted in the schools. In the interim, the Falmouth Public Schools is working to design an alternative plan for parent engagement. 

    PARTIES AND CELEBRATIONS

    Students are not permitted to bring food or other items from home to exchange with peers

Last Modified on September 9, 2020