For a pdf version of the ARPS Update, please click here.
Para uma versão do ARPS Update em português, clique aqui.
Many area school districts have seen spikes in the number of COVID cases in the past two weeks, consistent with the large increase in positive cases across the state and region since Thanksgiving. While our cases have not spiked as dramatically as some, we have also seen an increase from 11 cases for the whole month of November to 10 cases so far in December. It has been reported in most districts, including ours, that many of these cases can be traced to indoor, unmasked, out-of-school activities such as sleepover parties. As a district, we will continue to observe all of our COVID prevention strategies including masking indoors and maintaining social distancing in order to minimize the risk of in-school spread, which has proven successful at preventing in-school transmission.
As a reminder, three in-school COVID testing programs became available in our schools beginning in October:
- BINAX TESTING: The Binax testing program makes in-school rapid Binax testing available to students or staff who become symptomatic for COVID AFTER arriving at school (anyone who is symptomatic prior to arriving at school must stay home and be tested outside of school).
- POOLED TESTING: Pooled testing combines the tests of multiple people within a school (most pools include 8 to 10 people). If the pool tests positive, the people within that particular pool are then tested individually. It is a particularly efficient and effective way to identify asymptomatic Covid cases.
- TEST AND STAY: Test and stay is a testing program for unvaccinated students who are identified as close contacts of a person who is confirmed to have COVID. With test and stay, the close contact is tested daily and allowed to remain in school so long as they test negative. Now that vaccines are available to children age five and older, the test and stay program is ending as of December 23 for students in grades K-12. When school resumes on January 3, any unvaccinated student in those grade levels identified as a close contact of a COVID-positive person will be required to follow quarantine requirements. Test and stay will continue to be available to students in preschool since those children are not eligible to receive the vaccine.
Many families provided consent for their children to participate in the COVID testing programs when they began in October. If you did not and would like to participate in Binax and/or pooled testing, the link is https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma?district=Amherst-Pelham for anyone who still wishes to sign up. Enrolling provides consent for both programs. For questions about the testing program or signing up, please reach out to your school nurse.
As always, we continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated to do so since it is the most reliable way to protect your own health, as well as the health of those around you. Booster vaccines for ages 16+ are available through the Amherst Health Department, and a clinic is scheduled for December 23 and elsewhere in our area. Vaccine appointments for children age 5-11 are most readily available in Springfield at this link.
Finally, the Regional School Committee approved the school calendar for the 2022-2023 school year at their meeting this Tuesday. I am happy to be able to share this a few months earlier than usual to assist families and staff with planning for next fall. A copy of the calendar is included below.