May 7, 2021
Dear Swampscott Families,
Spring has finally sprung, and it’s nice to see our students lunching outside for a change. We have ordered more picnic tables for the outdoor spaces at each school. Taking advantage of outdoor spaces, even post-pandemic, has health benefits for our faculty, staff, and students. Something we took for granted but a positive take away from the last fifteen months.
In our mission to provide every student what they need and to educate “the whole child” PreK-12, we have continued to pursue avenues to bring Career and Technical Education classes to our high school students. The traditional high school model is not appropriate and does not motivate all students, and yet, there are limited alternatives. Many of our students are waitlisted after applying for admission into these technical high schools. I am proud to announce that beginning in our 2021-2022 school year, the District is partnering with Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical High School to allow our high school students to access vocational classes.
This program will be offered to rising juniors who can participate during their junior and senior years. Enrolled students will take their core academic courses at Swampscott High School in the morning, take a bus to Essex Tech in the afternoon, and then take a bus back to Swampscott after daily dismissal. This transportation will be funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Students will be able to enroll in training for auto collision repair and refinishing, automotive technology, construction, design and media communications, electrical and plumbing.
In other news, as the weather is improving, vaccinations expanding, and Governor Baker outlining a timeline for further reopening of the Commonwealth, many questions are coming our way regarding the loosening of cleaning protocols and health and safety protocols within the schools. I know some might feel we are past the critical stage of this pandemic, but I am not a medical expert, and I am not willing to risk the health and safety of anyone in our schools by changing protocols for the last six weeks of this school year. I am fully aware that DESE has changed quarantine and close contact guidance, and, honestly, since that announcement, I have struggled with whether or not to follow the DESE guidance or continue with the CDC guidance that we have in place. Following the recommendation of our Board of Health and the Swampscott Health Department, we will continue to follow the CDC guidance for the remainder of the year. The CDC’s definition of a close contact, which can be found online at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/appendix.html#contact, is as follows:
Someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes in one day). An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date) until they meet the criteria for discontinuing home isolation.
Public Health Recommendations:
Except in certain circumstances, people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should quarantine. However, the following people with recent exposure may NOT need to quarantine:
- People who have been fully vaccinated
- People who were previously diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last three months
- A number of factors can influence COVID-19 exposure risk, including type, proximity, and duration of exposure, environmental factors (for example, crowding), vaccination status, prior COVID-19 infection, and mask use.
- Correct and consistent mask use is a critical step that people can take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. However, the type of masks used and whether or not they are used consistently and correctly varies throughout the general population. Therefore, mask use is not considered when determining COVID-19 exposure and the definition of a close contact during case investigation and contact tracing, regardless of whether the person diagnosed with and/or the person exposed to COVID-19 was wearing a mask. (Note: Exposure risk in the healthcare setting is determined separately and outlined in CDC guidance).
In closing, there have been COVID-related situations this week that have solidified my decision to stay the course. Unfortunately, we had students attend school on days when they were either infected with Covid-19 or were deemed close contacts. Sending your child(ren) to school in either case directly violates our district policy and continues to place our entire school communities at risk. Further, it serves to delay our ability to provide all our students with the most “ordinary” school experience possible at this point. Some semblance of normalcy is unquestionably a goal that we as a school community have been working extremely hard to attain. Most importantly, we love our students, staff, and our own families and want them to be safe.
If your child is at risk in any way whatsoever regarding Covid-19, the expectation is clear – you must keep your child home until all relevant parties have been granted medical clearance. Please help us by doing the right thing.
Pamela R. H. Angelakis, M.A., M.Ed.
Superintendent of Schools