Superintendent's Update 11/5/21

Superintendent's Update 11/5/21
Posted on 11/05/2021

Superintendent’s Update

November 5, 2021



Pictured:  ABRHS Teacher Michael Romano (3rd from right) is recognized by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Mathematics and Science Teaching.



In this update:

November is Native American Heritage Month

Happy Diwali

English Language Parent Advisory Council (ELPAC)

Transportation Update

COVID Public Health Update

COVID Vaccines to be Available for Children Ages 5-12

Masks and COVID Protocols

Coffee with the Superintendent and School Committee Chair

November is Native American Heritage Month

This month is Native American Heritage Month.  As you may be aware, the communities of Acton and Boxborough were founded on unceded land that was previously occupied by the Nashoba and Nipmuc peoples of the Massachusetts and Pawtucket tribes of the Algonkian, or Algonquin, Confederation.  The name Nimuc means ‘fresh water people,’ and Nashoba roughly means ‘land between the waters’, a reference to the many ponds, wetlands, and streams in the area.  Families who wish to explore the topic more at home may wish to explore the Native American Heritage Month Website or read one of many great books with your child.

Happy Diwali

For our families who observe Diwali, the festival of lights, we hope any plans you have this week and weekend is full of joy and celebration with friends and family.  Here is an article from 2017 in the Washington Post, written by someone who uses her family’s celebration of Diwali to reflect on the dynamics that often accompany a bicultural upbringing and formation of identity.  Here is a more recent piece, also in the Washington Post, that attempts to provide those of us less familiar with the origins and aspects of the holiday with a primer on how Diwali has various meanings and interpretations amongst those who observe the holiday.  

English Language Parent Advisory Council (ELPAC)

Collaborative partnerships between schools and families are crucial to student engagement and success. One way we do this is through our English Learner Parent Advisory Councils (EL-PAC).  Because ABRSD has more than 100 multilingual learners, we are required to have an ELPAC.  

 

On Tuesday, October 26, Assistant Superintendent Dawn Bentley and English Language Department Chair Maryann Young facilitated a livestream ELPAC meeting with multilingual families that was interpreted in our three most-spoken languages: Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish.  Drs. Bentley and Young shared demographic information, family resources, and our Covid protocols, and also responded to questions. 

 

If your child is currently enrolled in our English language education program or was previously enrolled and you are interested in joining our ABRSD EL-PAC, please email our English Language Education Department Chairperson, Maryann Young, at myoung@abschools.org.

Transportation Update
We previously shared with families that we anticipated loosing as many as seven bus drivers with the implementation of the vaccine requirement and that we were considering changing school start times as a result.  We are pleased to share with families, that the number of drivers expected not to continue with us has reduced to 2 and we are in the process of hiring additional licensed drivers.  At this time, we will not need to change any school start times.  There will be several routes that will be altered and our transportation staff will communicate directly with families about this change next week.  There will no impact to school start times as we work through these changes.

COVID Public Health Update

Massachusetts’ 7 day average of COVID-19 cases has seen a relatively steady decline from a high of 1891 on September 13 to 960 on October 28.   The 14 day average incidence rate as reported by the state is currently 7.2 for Acton (down from 11.2 two weeks ago) and 15.5  for Boxborough (up from 12.7 two weeks ago). 

In our schools, we have seen a total of 8 positive cases of COVID-19 among students and staff in the last two weeks, and a total of 52 cases this year.  A detailed breakdown by school can be found on our COVID-19 Website

COVID Vaccines to be Available for Children Ages 5-12

At this time, we are tentatively planning two clinics (first-come, first served) at R.J. Grey Junior High School as follows:

  • Clinic A (your sign-up would include both Dose 1 and Dose 2 clinics)
    • Dose 1: Saturday, November 13th from 8:00-4:00pm
    • Dose 2: Saturday, December 4th from 8:00-4:00
  • Clinic B (your sign-up would include both Dose 1 and Dose 2 clinics)
    • Dose 1: Saturday, November 20th from 8:00-4:00pm
    • Dose 2: Saturday, December 11th from 8:00-4:00

The Acton Health Department has ordered the maximum of 300 initial vaccine doses on behalf of the children in our district, and we anticipate we will be able to place another order for 300 more on Monday, 11/8/21.  However, if you have been watching the news, you know that the Federal Government is in charge of shipments to each state right now, so we have little to no control over our supply at the local level.  Additional information was sent directly to families with students ages 5-12.

Masks and COVID Protocols

As you are likely aware, DESE has extended its mask requirement for schools until at least January 15.  There is an exemption available for individual schools who can demonstrate a greater than 80% vaccination combined among students and staff.  Our high school vaccination rate for students is currently 92% and at the JHS, our student vaccination rate is 88% percent.  Our staff vaccination rate is approximately 98%.  Based on these data, both schools will qualify for an exemption from the DESE requirement.  

We have begun discussing the mask requirement with our health advisory team.  Based on these discussions and the opportunity for our elementary students to receive both doses of the vaccine in the next two months, we will begin to discuss relaxing our mask requirement at the JHS and High School in the new year.  We have not made a final decision about this timeframe.  Between now and the new year, we will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases in our schools and communities and continue to communicate with stakeholders about this important next step for our secondary schools.  We understand that even as we move toward this change, there will continue to be many individuals who will choose to wear masks voluntarily and our schools will support these individuals.  It is also important to note that based on DESE requirements, individuals who are not fully vaccinated will be required to continue to wear masks indoors.  

We do not anticipate that our elementary schools will qualify for an exemption from mask requirements at the same time as our secondary schools.  No timetable has been set to consider a change to mask requirements at the elementary level.  In addition to consideration of mask requirements, as our vaccination rate among students increases, we will also need to discuss continuation of pooled testing at our schools.  

Coffee with the Superintendent and School Committee Chair

Adam and I will continue to host opportunities for families to engage with us as we go through the year.  Our next meeting is on November 17th at 7:00 p.m. via zoom.  We will send a link to families a day or two before the meeting.  Upcoming dates include:

  • Nov 17 at 7 pm
  • Dec 15 at 8:30 am
  • Jan 12 at 8:30 am
  • Feb 9 at 8:30 am
  • Mar 9 at 8:30 am
  • Apr 6 at 7 pm
  • May 4 at 7 pm
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