Superintendent's Update for Families - January 9, 2022

Dear Shrewsbury Families,

I hope your students were able to enjoy the snow day on Friday.  Remember that our superb Parks & Recreation Department is having a town-wide snowman contest through tomorrow in case you’re looking to celebrate winter’s arrival.  As always, please do plan ahead for the weather – there may be icy conditions tomorrow morning, so take it slow, and please have your child dress warmly as temperatures will be bitterly cold on Tuesday.

I want to provide you with a few important updates regarding our COVID-19 situation.  As you know, the number of positive cases in our community and our school district have increased sharply due to the Omicron variant’s high level of contagiousness.  Our dashboard tomorrow will show that we had 441 positive cases reported for students and staff for the week of January 1-7.  This represents about 6.5% of our school district. The vast majority of these infections occurred during the vacation week, of course.  However, we have been analyzing cases that occurred later in the week, and we have not seen any evidence of significant clusters of cases that might be attributed to being in the same class or eating lunch together. We will continue to monitor for this carefully as we return to school, especially since we cannot do the detailed contact tracing for each individual case that we would typically do, because of the sheer volume of cases.

We remain committed to providing full-time, in-school learning for our students.  The only scenario where I see closing a school is if staff absences are too numerous to safely hold school that day in a particular building.  I do not see a scenario where we would shift to remote learning, for the reasons I have stated and expanded upon when presenting to the School Committee last week.  

I continue to request your cooperation in helping us minimize the chances of transmission of the virus:

1) Please monitor your child for symptoms each day regardless of whether they are an "official" close contact, and please do not send them to school if they have symptoms of COVID-19.  A symptom checklist can be found here.  

2) Please strongly consider having your child participate in the weekly safety testing (i.e., surveillance pooled testing).  If you previously registered your child for either safety testing or “Test and Stay,” they can pick up a testing kit tomorrow and return it on Tuesday.  If you haven’t registered them yet, if you do so by Tuesday by clicking here they will then be eligible to start next week.

3) If you haven't already, please strongly consider having your child get vaccinated or get a booster shot.  Speak to your pediatrician or family physician to get their advice.  At this time, all students ages 5 and up can get their primary series of two shots to become vaccinated, and students 12 and older who are already vaccinated are eligible to get a booster if enough time has elapsed (click here for more information from the CDC and here for information from the MA Department of Public Health).  Currently, 61% of Shrewsbury residents age 5-11 have their first vaccination shot and 44% of them are fully vaccinated with their second dose; 88% of Shrewsbury 12-15 year-olds and 91% of 16-19 year-olds are fully vaccinated, and 29% of 16-19 year-olds have been boosted as well.  To assist those who are seeking initial vaccinations or boosters, we plan to offer another vaccination clinic this coming Thursday, January 13 from 4:00-7:00pm at Oak Middle School.

4) Please help your child mask properly.  Many experts are discouraging cloth masks, but regardless of the type of mask used please ensure it fits well.  

Thank you for your continued support of our schools as we continue to work through these challenging times.  I deeply appreciate your partnership.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and go Pats!

Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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