Health and Safety Guidance
Dear Staff and Families,
I hope everyone is enjoying the last days of summer before school begins.
This letter outlines the health and safety guidance that will inform our return to school. I apologize in advance for this lengthy correspondence. I will continue to update you when new information becomes available.
All students are expected to be in school in-person, five days a week during the 2021-2022 school year. There is no remote option for students this year. More information will be provided about how students will connect with their learning when they must isolate or quarantine.
Most distancing and cohorting requirements have been lifted. However, we will continue to have students spaced 3 feet apart during indoor snack and lunch when masks are off. Staff and students are not required to wear masks outdoors. We will provide opportunities for students to eat lunch outside. The expectation is to provide outdoor breaks and outdoor learning opportunities each day.
COVID Update. Falmouth has been holding steady for the past four weeks with approximately 30 new cases a week and a positivity rate between 2.2 and 2.6. Overall, the vaccination rate for our community is 78% for eligible residents who have been fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates for the 12-15 age group is 54% and 69% for the 16-19 age group.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Update. DESE passed an indoor mask mandate for all school employees and students age 5 and above through October 1, 2021. At this time, DESE has indicated after October 1, districts will need to demonstrate 80% vaccination rate among staff and students at our junior high school and high school to allow vaccinated individuals to unmask. To meet that mark, however, we need more people vaccinated. We also need staff and students to report vaccinations to the district, so this metric can be calculated accurately.
Student and Staff Vaccination Clinics. Barnstable County Health Department is once again offering clinics for our students at Morse Pond, Lawrence, and FHS. Students who are 12 years and older will have the opportunity to receive the Pfizer vaccine (two doses) during school with parent/guardian consent. You may register your child using the link below. Each link is specific to the school. If you have children in multiple schools, you will need to register each child using the correct school link. You are only registering for the first dose at this time (you will be automatically registered for the second dose). The vaccine is free and available to every unvaccinated student and staff member. If you need assistance in completing registration, please contact our Public Health Nurse, Jennifer Reissfelder, at 774-392-6477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clinic Dates/Times/Registration Links:
Falmouth High School
September 24 9:00 am-11:00 am 1st dose
October 15 9:00 am-11:00 am 2nd dose
September 24 11:30 am -12:30 pm 1st dose
October 15 11:30 am-12:30 pm 2nd dose
Morse Pond School
September 24 1:00 pm -2:00 pm 1st dose
October 15 1:00 pm-2:00 pm 2nd dose
In addition to the FPS clinics, there are many available sites who accept walk-in appointments such as CVS and Walgreens. And of course, you may contact your primary care physician and community health centers. For more information on vaccination sites, please visit www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.
Reporting Vaccinations. You may report vaccination information to our Public Health Nurse, Jennifer Reissfelder, at 774-392-6477 or email@example.com. Having this information on file assists us in making quarantine decisions when contact tracing is necessary.
DESE Guidance for Quarantining Staff and Students. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has provided districts with new and updated contact tracing and quarantine guidance. The new guidance minimizes the impact of quarantining due to exposure to COVID-19 and keeps students and staff safely in school.
Falmouth Public Schools has been approved for in-school diagnostic testing. Diagnostic testing has two components:
- Symptomatic Testing: When a student or staff member presents with symptoms during school, they may be tested with a BinaxNOW rapid antigen test (and depending on results, may be recommended for a PCR test). Please do not come to school or send students to school if they are experiencing symptoms at home.
- Test and Stay for close contacts: If an asymptomatic student or staff member has been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual, they may be tested in school with a BinaxNOW rapid antigen test for at least five (5) days from the first day of exposure. This option allows asymptomatic students and staff to remain in school with a negative test.
Parent/Guardian consent for both testing programs is required. Students and staff members who do not participate in the test and stay program will be required to quarantine for at least 7 days from the date of exposure, remain asymptomatic, receive a COVID test on day 5 or later and receive a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result, and monitor for symptoms through day 14 (and self-isolate if symptoms develop). If an individual chooses not to take a PCR or rapid antigen test on day 5 or later, then the quarantine is at least 10 days from the date of exposure. Please see below if an individual is symptomatic or COVID-19 positive.
Consent to Test. A consent form will be sent home on the first day of school. Please sign and return if you choose for your child to participate in one or both of the testing options described above.
COVID-19 Symptoms. If any individual (vaccinated or unvaccinated) is experiencing the following symptoms, they must follow the testing and quarantine response protocols for symptomatic individuals (see below):
- Fever (100.0 Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- New loss of taste or smell
- Muscle aches or body aches
Individuals with the following symptoms should be monitored and when in combination with other symptoms, should also follow testing and quarantine response protocols below: cough (not due to other known causes, such as chronic cough), sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, and nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to allergies).
Testing and Quarantine Protocols for Symptomatic individuals and COVID-19 Positive Asymptomatic individuals. Symptomatic individuals may return to school after symptoms improve, have been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with a negative PCR test. If an individual chooses not to test or individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for at least 10 days from the day symptoms begin (or after a positive test if asymptomatic) and when symptoms have improved and the individual has been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Updated Definition of Close Contact. Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors, for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. There is no longer a requirement to trace contacts while outdoors.
The following individuals identified as close contacts are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols: asymptomatic fully vaccinated close contacts, bus close contacts (due to the mask mandate on buses), and close contacts who have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days. DESE has also listed classroom close contacts who are spaced at least 3 feet apart. Since we cannot guarantee that students will remain 3 feet apart for the duration of the day, we cannot include this exemption. We are striving to bring students back to as much normalcy as possible, and this includes student interactions during the school day.
The full DESE guidance can be found at https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/on-desktop/protocols/protocols.pdf.
Although we are not quite back to normal health and safety protocols, we are excited to begin a new school year and welcome ALL our CLIPPERS back on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. (Please check the schedule for preK and kindergarten start dates.)
Lori Duerr, Ed.D.
Falmouth Public Schools