Superintendent Update 9/10/21

Superintendent Update 9/10/21
Posted on 09/10/2021
ABRHS Welcomes the Incoming Class of 2025!

 




In this update:

Remembering 9/11

World Suicide Prevention Day: Friday, September 10, 2021

COVID Health Update

COVID Testing Program

Transportation Update

Help Wanted!

Annual Report

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant



ABRHS Welcomes the Incoming Class of 2025!


Remembering 9/11

This Friday our schools have a variety of plans to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.  At both the High School and Junior High, an announcement will be made at 8:45 about the historical context of 9/11 which will be followed by a moment of silence.  The High School will also include the performance of a musical piece, and share information about local events commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. The Junior High school will ask students to write a “Hope for Peace” message on paper cranes that will then be hung throughout the school halls. 


Each of our elementary schools will include activities that reflect the school’s culture and that are age appropriate. This may include class discussions in the older grades, and school-based activities and traditions such as peace walks.  Families who wish to learn more about their school’s plans can reach out to their school principal for additional details.  


On Saturday, September 11, the Town of Acton invites the community to a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11.  Details about this event are here.  You can also learn more about the Town of Acton’s September 11th Memorial located at the Public Safety Building on Main Street through the Acton Historical Society.



World Suicide Prevention Day: Friday, September 10, 2021

Over the last five years, our AB community has experienced a number of deaths by suicide with current and former students.  While these tragedies have had a huge impact on our staff, students and community,  their families continue to feel the loss of their loved one every day in ways most of us cannot imagine.  


Every 11 minutes, someone in the United States dies by suicide.  For every death by suicide, there are 25 additional suicide attempts.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, the fourth leading cause among people ages 35-44, and the fifth leading cause among people ages 45-54. Take a minute to watch the 2021 World Suicide Awareness Day video produced by To Write Love On Her Arms titled Another Day With You.


We took this week to also remind staff that as we continue to work our way through a global health pandemic with far-reaching repercussions, many of our students have experienced or continue to experience significant life events and/or trauma, which have implications for their mental health and well-being.  This is one of many reasons why building relationships with and knowing your students is the most important thing we do as educators.  In all of our new staff orientations and our opening week messages, we asked our educators to focus on key trauma-informed teacher moves:  

  • RELATIONSHIPS AND WELL-BEING

  • ESTABLISHING A ROUTINE AND MAINTAINING CLEAR COMMUNICATION

  • SENSE OF SAFETY 

  • CONNECTEDNESS 

  • HOPE 


Finally, we issued a challenge to each of our staff members to do at least one of the following: 

  • Take a deeper dive into how they can prevent suicide in the additional SafeSchools course titled Youth Suicide: Awareness, Prevention, and Postvention.  

  • Commit to signing up for one of our monthly AB Cares community coalition Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training sessions between October 2021 and June 2022.  (Watch for the dates in the next few weeks!)

  • Call a friend or a loved one they are worried about and check in with them.  Worried about what to say?  Check out a few of these conversation starters on Seize the Awkward.  

  • If they don't already, sign up to follow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) on Instagram, Facebook, The Mighty, and/or Twitter.   


Suicide prevention is our collective work, and it is critical that we each know how to recognize the signs someone is struggling and know how to get them help.  


COVID Health Update

We are in the late stages of discussion with our unions around a vaccine mandate for all District staff.  This would require all staff in the district to be fully vaccinated.  We hope to have more information in the next two weeks.  We have had some questions from families about the possibility of mandating vaccines for students.  Based on information from DESE, any such mandate would be the purview of MA Department of Public Health (DPH) and not within an individual district’s authority to mandate.

Our current vaccination rates as of 9/9/2021 are:

  • 90% of eligible ABRHS students have at least one dose

  • 85% of eligible RJGJHS students have at least one dose

  • Overall, 88% of our eligible students have at least one vaccine dose

  • >90% of our staff are fully vaccinated 


As of September 9, we have had a total of six individuals in our schools who have tested positive for COVID-19.  There has been no evidence of any in school transmission.  Based on current COVID protocols, there are a total of seven students who have been identified as close contacts in school and required to quarantine.  We are providing access to education for them through live-stream technology in our classrooms.  The community can access real-time data about COVID cases in our schools on the COVID-19 portion of our website.



COVID Testing Program

The District is providing three testing programs this year.  We would like to encourage and remind families to provide consent for the District’s COVID testing programs.  Signed consent from families was due on Wednesday, September 8th through the powerschool Parent Portal, but we have extended the deadline until noon on Monday, September 13.  This will delay our implementation of the testing program.


Test and Stay Program:  This program is designed for unvaccinated students as an alternative to quarantine.  Students and staff who are fully vaccinated are exempt from quarantine requirements as long as they are asymptomatic.  This program is only for unvaccinated students.  Students who participate in this program may continue to come to school after being identified as a close contact provided they take a daily rapid test in the nurse's office and continue to test negative for seven consecutive days after exposure.   Students are required to quarantine while outside of school.


Routine COVID Safety Checks (Pooled Testing):  This program is highly recommended by both DESE and DPH for unvaccinated individuals and will be offered at all elementary schools, pending participation rates.  It is not being offered at the secondary level at this time as our vaccination rate is close to 90% of secondary students and the program is not recommended for vaccinated individuals.  Our goal is to have 100% elementary student participation in this non-invasive testing program.  Students who participate in the program take a self-administered sample using a short nasal swab one time per week. The test takes less than 30 seconds to complete.  This is an important mitigation strategy to keep our elementary schools safe since vaccines are not yet available to this population.


Currently we have 71% of our elementary students signed up to participate in Routine Covid Safety Checks. We are awaiting responses from approximately 650 families and fewer than 100 families have declined participation.  We will send a final reminder to families who have not yet enrolled in the program.  Registration for the testing programs is being extended to noon on Monday, September 13.


Symptomatic Testing:  We plan to use symptomatic rapid testing when a student begins to show symptoms of COVID-19 after they arrive at school.  Important - students may not come to school if they are feeling sick while at home.


Transportation Update

The return of all of our students to in-person learning, coupled with a shortage of available drivers, made transportation during the first week of school challenging.  Fortunately, after adjusting some procedures and processes, ensuring drivers had time to learn the nuances of routes, and getting those “First Day” bus pictures behind us, all of our buses are now operating within the district guideline of 45-50 minutes per route.  The transportation department is working through some additional requests for bus stop evaluations.  The department will continue to evaluate bus routes through October and make adjustments to optimize routes.



Help Wanted!

We are experiencing critical shortages of bus drivers, cafeteria staff, classroom assistants and substitute teachers.  If you know of anyone interested in joining our team, we encourage them to apply online.  We will provide training for any positions.


Annual Report

After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the second edition of the District’s Annual Report has left the post office and should be arriving in resident’s mailboxes this week.  A digital version of the report is available on our website.  We would like to thank all of the district staff who were involved in the development of this report.  This was a unique opportunity to document and share the year of pandemic learning for our community.


Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant

We are pleased to report that the District, in partnership with the Town of Acton, will receive $70,000 in state funding via the MVP Action Grant program for creating an "Electrification Roadmap." This will be a collaborative project with the Town of Acton, with a goal of identifying potential pathways for electrification of several buildings over time: AB's central school campus (High School, Junior High, Parker Damon Building, and Administration Building), Town Hall, Memorial Library and the Public Safety Facility.  Thank you to the District’s Energy Manager, Kate Crosby, for working in partnership with the town on this project.


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