SPS Public Health Metrics and Protocols for Moving Between Different Learning Models 2020-2021 School Year
Updated October 14, 2020
(Updated language in blue)
1. The Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) has issued expectations for which learning models local districts will use during the pandemic according to the state’s public health metric of average daily cases per 100,000 people.
On October 2, 2020, DESE issued the following updated guidance:
The Department of Public Health (DPH) releases weekly, color-coded health metric for all municipalities in the Commonwealth. With each weekly update of the color-coded health metrics, we have seen municipalities falling in and out of the “red” and/or “yellow” designations. For this reason, we are reminding you that it is critically important that school districts do not make decisions based on a single report from DPH. Instead, we recommend that school districts wait for color changes in either direction in three consecutive weekly reports before considering a change to an instructional model (remote, hybrid, in-person).
This three-week time period of reports will represent four weeks of data and will be more reflective of a trend than one report. Furthermore, please remember that these color-coded designations are based on a single indicator (number of cases per 100,000 residents). In addition to this color-coded metric, we encourage districts and schools to work with their local boards of health to use all available information regarding COVID-19 trends in making these decisions. This could also include local test positivity rates and whether cases are increasing or decreasing in a municipality.
2. Additionally, DESE suggests that districts look at trends over time by monitoring
a. whether this 14-day average daily incidence rate is increasing or decreasing;
b. whether the number of cases in a community is increasing or decreasing; and
c. whether the percentage of positive tests in that community is increasing or decreasing.
3. For the 2020-2021 school year, the Shrewsbury Public Schools will utilize a hybrid model if the average daily cases per 100,000 for Shrewsbury remains in the green zone, unless trends or significant increases in other metrics warrant a change per section 4 below.
4. If the average daily cases in Shrewsbury per 100,000 moves into the yellow zone, and/or if some combination of the metrics 2-a, 2-b, and 2-c listed above are showing a trend of increasing over multiple reporting periods or a significant increase over one reporting period, and/or if rates in nearby communities are showing similar trends or significant increases, the superintendent will consult with local public health officials who are part of the Central Mass Regional Public Health Alliance; medical and/or infectious disease experts as possible; School Committee members; the SPS leadership team; and the leadership of SPS employee bargaining units when determining whether to institute a change from hybrid to all remote learning. The superintendent may use his authority to change the learning model from hybrid to remote for a period of up to 10 school days with or without such consultation depending on the urgency of the decision; the authorization of the School Committee through a vote in a public session will be required to extend a change to remote beyond 10 school days; and the School Committee will consult with the groups named above prior to its vote.
5. If the average daily cases per 100,000 for Shrewsbury moves into the red zone the superintendent will consult with public health authorities and consider whether a change in program is warranted based on multiple factors, including the case count in schools, what public health authorities attribute the increase in cases to (for example, cases in long-term care facilities), and other statistics noted above. Per DESE’s October 2, 2020 advisory (see section #1 above), a single data report placing the town in the red zone is unlikely to result in a decision to change to all remote learning, unless factors involved per public health authorities signal that the rise in cases in the community is attributed to spread within a school or schools, or are indicating that this is likely to happen. Per the guidance from DESE, the superintendent will consider whether a multiple week trend of case counts and reports placing the town in the red zone warrant a shift to all remote education.
6. If the district has moved into full remote learning based on community metrics (not on actual cases of COVID in schools, addressed in section 7 below), the superintendent will continue to monitor all of the metrics listed above in sections 1 & 2, and will continue to consult with all of the groups listed in section 4 above, before making any recommendation to the School Committee for a vote to return to a hybrid model under a yellow, green, or unshaded rating. If the decision was made to move to remote learning was due, at least in part, to the town being rated in the red zone, the town must be under a different color rating for at least two consecutive weekly reports prior to a vote to return to a hybrid model.
7. If cases of COVID-19 among students or staff at an individual school or across the district are identified, the superintendent will follow the following steps, which are based on guidance issued by DESE:
a. If there is more than one confirmed COVID-19 case (students or staff) in the school at one time, or if there is a series of single cases in a short time span, the superintendent will consult with the Central Mass Regional Public Health Alliance to determine if it is likely that there is transmission happening in school.
b. If there is suspected in-school transmission beyond one cohort or a small number of cohorts, the superintendent will consult the Central Mass Regional Public Health Alliance as to proposed next steps. These steps should include a review of the specific COVID-19 public health metrics for the municipality and could lead to, for example, making a decision to a) close part of the school or the entire school and shift to remote learning for a short time (e.g. 1-3 days) for an extensive cleaning or other facility mitigation, or b) close the school partially or fully and shift to remote learning for the longer duration of a 14-day quarantine period (typically 10 school days plus weekends).
c. Should there be circumstances where there are multiple cases in multiple schools, the superintendent will consult the Central Mass Regional Public Health Alliance as to proposed next steps. These steps will include a review of the specific COVID-19 public health metrics for the municipality and could lead to, for example, making a decision to a) close all district schools to in-person attendance and shift the district to remote learning for a short time (e.g. 1-3 days) for an extensive cleaning or other facility mitigation, or b) close all district schools to in-person attendance and shift the district to remote learning for the longer duration of a 14-day quarantine period (typically 10 school days plus weekends).
d. Under these scenarios, the superintendent will communicate with all of the groups in addition to the Central Mass Regional Public Health Alliance listed in section 4 above and consult with them as possible based upon the urgency of the situation. The superintendent may use his authority to close and shift a school to remote learning without consultation depending on the urgency of the situation.
8. If there are favorable developments regarding the prevention, treatment, and/or level of community spread of COVID-19 per public health and medical experts, the groups listed in section 4 above will engage in discussions regarding possibilities of moving from a hybrid model to a higher degree of in-person attendance by students and/or a return to full-time, in-person student attendance and what criteria might be used to make that determination.
9. The District recognizes that these are unprecedented times and guidance and metrics are being developed and issued on a regular basis. Should new metrics or guidance become available that could be beneficial to the District in making health and safety assessments with regard to the implementation of learning models, those metrics and/or guidance may be utilized in addition to those listed in items 1 and 2 above with notice to the School Committee and the parties listed in item 4 above.
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