Dear Parents/Guardians, Students, and Staff Members,
Research shows that regular school attendance has many benefits for students, including: the ability to read for comprehension by the third grade, achieve academic success in the middle grades, and be on track for high school graduation. These skills and achievements can impact a student for the rest of their lives, and open the doors to allow them to realize their dreams and ambitions. The effects of chronic absenteeism can impact a students' access to learning and is defined as missing 10% or more of the school year (18 days inclusive of all reasons for missing school). Research indicates that chronic absenteeism is a behavioral pattern that can form during the early grades when parents/guardians play an integral role in their students' lives. Since students will need to stay home if symptomatic for COVID-19 (see below), it becomes even more important that students and families make every effort to attend school regularly when asymptomatic. Parent/guardian support for regular school attendance is one way we can as a community support our students to close achievement gaps caused by the pandemic. For more information on chronic absenteeism and the impact on student achievement go to Attendance Works.
DESE has issued an extension of the state mask mandate. This mandate is in compliance with the policy adopted by our school committee. Masks must be worn by all individuals entering the school, or by federal requirements when riding on school buses. Mask-wearing is a critical habit for health as well as a commitment of caring for all school community members. Mask-wearing is one of the most important ways that every member of a school community shares responsibility for everyone’s health, safety, learning, and wellbeing. Masks may be removed during eating, drinking, or during a mask break outdoors or where at least 3 feet of physical distance is maintained when indoors.
According to the most recent guidance issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), schools must reach at least an 80% vaccination threshold before considering lifting the mask mandate. The benchmark for consideration of removing the state mask mandate is an 80% vaccination rate for all students, teachers, and other staff members for each school. As the North Adams Public Schools has a face covering policy in place (FILE:EBCFA), a decision to ultimately lift the requirement for masks would necessitate a vote by the school committee to rescind the policy.
The state has asked that districts develop a method to attest to meeting the vaccination rate of eighty percent. The only school in our district where the entire student population is currently eligible for vaccination is Drury High School. North Adams Public Schools has developed an on-line survey for all district staff members and Drury students, or their parents/guardians, to complete and submit to confirm their vaccination status. The district will be sending an email to all Drury High School students (@cb.napsk12.org) and district staff (@napsk12.org) today at 5:00 pm with a link to complete the required survey. The survey asks each student or staff member to indicate and attest to their vaccination status. The deadline to submit the required survey is Monday, October 18, at 5:00 pm. This information will only be used to verify the level of vaccination by school for reporting to DESE. If you have any questions, please contact the school your child attends or email the school nurse leader at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students 12 years old and older can be vaccinated. If the student is under the age of 18, they must have a parent or guardian present to authorize the vaccination. Northern Berkshire Pediatrics patients can obtain vaccination appointments by calling the office (413-663-8365). Those who are not Northern Berkshire Pediatrics patients can of course still be vaccinated, these individuals can obtain a vaccination at any of the sites located throughout the state including the CVS pharmacy.
Staying home when sick!
As the cold and flu season begins with chilly temperatures and more time spent indoors, it is important to protect your health by knowing the symptoms of COVID-19, which can be very similar. Please keep your child home when they are ill.
If you or your child develops any symptoms associated with COVID-19, it is important that you quarantine and schedule a test to confirm your illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills or shaking chills
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- New loss of taste or smell
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
In addition, if a student has any combination of the symptoms below please contact your child’s pediatrician regarding the potential of a COVID-19 infection:
COVID Surveillance Testing
North Adams Public Schools has implemented a voluntary free weekly COVID-19 testing program to help keep our staff, students and community safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Regular COVID-19 testing of students and staff will help us lower the risk of the disease in our school by finding and isolating individuals who have COVID-19 quickly, even before, or if , they show symptoms. The weekly COVID-19 testing program is just another way we are striving to keep our school environment safe for everyone. Please provide consent for your child to participate in this valuable program. You need to provide an updated consent for this school year, even if your child participated in the testing program last year.
The consent form is available on the district website at https://www.napsk12.org/page/c....
Enjoy this holiday weekend, but remember to prioritize the health of your families. Stay safe by remembering to wear your masks indoors and to wash your hands often!
Dr. Barbara Malkas
Superintendent of North Adams Public Schools