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Message from Superintendent Duerr

July 20, 2020

Dear Staff and Families,

A safe return to school will require our community’s continued attention towards health and safety measures through the next 6-7 weeks of summer. Once we return to school, the same high level of attention to safety will be required of all of us during school and out of school to keep the number of COVID-19 cases low in order to remain in school.

We received guidance and protocols for responding to COVID-19 scenarios from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). I have shared some of the guidance below. Full guidance can be found here.

DESE emphasized that even as we remain vigilant, and public health metrics in Massachusetts remain positive, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in school will not be zero. As a reminder from earlier guidance, it is not one strategy but a combination of all strategies that will substantially reduce the risk of transmission when we are allowed to return to school.

  • 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 among the most important single measures 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.

  • Hand hygiene is 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. 

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.

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

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

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.

Schools and families should remain in close contact. Parents/guardians should notify the school if their child has symptoms, has tested positive, or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Schools will follow the recommended communication protocol outlined in the guidance and as directed by our local health agency.

Please review the entire document for Protocols for Possible COVID-19 Scenarios.

Please be safe and healthy this summer. We miss our Clippers and want a safe return to school. 

Thank you for your continued vigilance.

Lori Duerr, Ed.D.
Falmouth Public Schools