Superintendent's Letter - COVID-19 - March 13, 2020

Dear East Bridgewater Community;

 

We have been working over the past week to deal with COVID-19, and its impact on our community and appreciate your patience as we continue to manage this rapidly changing situation. The information contained in this correspondence is based on information gained by participation in conference calls with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the majority of the South Shore school districts.

 

The reason for this information regarding town, community and school closures is due to:

  • the heightened regional risk of cross-contamination from outside the community
  • potential cases for parental and community adult COVID-19 diagnoses in our town, and in the schools (there are NO reported cases at this time) 
  • potential individuals who may be recommended to self-quarantine (not diagnosed) in the community and neighboring communities, including school personnel
  • the concern for the health and wellness of students and residents of East Bridgewater with compromised immune systems.  
  • the larger south shore community, in collaboration with local Superintendents, has worked together in developing strategies for addressing our current situation. 

 

This action is part of a town-wide initiative, and will be most effective with the help and cooperation of the community. Rather than focusing on solely closing our schools—and having our student population in the community without isolation strategies and coordination with other partners— we have been working collectively to develop a more comprehensive strategy to bring a faster result in keeping more people safe.

 

School and School Program Closures

After managing what the Department of Public Health identified as a low-risk environment in our community over the past week, in partnership with the East Bridgewater Board of Health and the Town of East Bridgewater (and as part of a town-wide risk-mitigation strategy), the school district of East Bridgewater will be closed for 2 weeks, reopening on Monday, March 30, 2020. This closure includes daycare, all sports practices, try-outs, and other extracurricular activities.  School days will be made up, in the same fashion as snow days, in late June and will not to exceed the already scheduled 185 days outlined in our school calendar.

 

Status updates will be sent out when new information is available or to clarify mandates or declarations are made at the Federal or State level.

 

Out of district special education students: If your out of district school is open, school will be in session for you as scheduled and transportation will be provided.  Please look for notices from your specific school for up to date information.

 

Please know that we have provided guidance below for residents, families and students, and staff to help in practicing social isolating, monitoring symptoms, and avoiding typical student events and large gatherings during this two week period.  The intent is to isolate and therein calm the spread of the virus. If you do not assist us in this manner, we may be staying out of school for no effective result. This is a town-wide public health strategy to reduce community illness, please take our requests seriously.

 

Food Support for Eligible Free/Reduced Lunch Students: Grab and Go lunches will be available beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 from 11:00 - 1:00pm.  They can be picked up at the Jr./Sr. High School in the main lobby.  They will be available every week day until school is back in session.

 

Learning During Closure: Optional enrichment activities are available through our district website at

www.ebps.net.  More information to come on Distance Learning Activities for students to complete. Please complete this home technology access survey to help us better identify homes without access to internet service. If students in grades 3-6 are in need of a device to borrow they can contact the Mitchell School at 508-378-8209.

 

 

Previously Scheduled Activities: While we know it is disappointing that events are not occurring and key activities, such as the SAT, are postponed while community health is being prioritized.  We are working to reschedule events wherever possible in the coming weeks. We understand that there will be questions about AP classes, scholarship application deadlines, school plays, proms and other special events but we cannot yet answer this at this time.  

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has moved the spring sports start date to the earliest, March 30, 2020.  Please continue to check your email and monitor the East Bridgewater Public Schools notifications and social media presence for accurate information in the days ahead.

 

School Employee Information

It is expected that all staff will check work email from home during this closure to remain informed and learn of specific expectations in the days ahead. 

 

During this closure, schools will be cleaned and disinfected using deep disinfection equipment. Custodial/maintenance staff will be asked to report to the schools to handle these activities. 

 

Unless the Town Administration closes Town Hall, in the interest of business continuity, The East Bridgewater Public Schools Central Office will be open and the following essential personnel may be called to work during the closure: school building and district-wide administrators, school based educational secretaries, central office staff including but not limited educational secretaries, administrative assistants, payroll clerks, bookkeeper/accounts payable, central office administrators, food services staff, IT staff as determined by the Technology Director.  Essential personnel will receive specific direction from program leaders.

 

More specifics regarding expectations, attendance, and other details will be shared as we gain more guidance from the state.  It is imperative that all staff check their school email from home on a daily basis for regular updates.  Again this is a very fluid situation so it is imperative that we maintain communication with staff.

 

Town Building Closures 

 

School Facility Use:  All rental use of all school facilities, public-at-large use of the facilities, and evening and community events in our facilities have been canceled, effective immediately and until further notice.

 

Please refer to the town website at https://www.eastbridgewaterma.gov/ for up to date information on town building closings.

 

 

Community Health & Prevention

When a new illness is circulating, it’s natural for people to ask what they can do to protect themselves and their families. For our community health actions to be effective, we need all community members to do their part by staying at home as much as possible during the school closure. Our best prevention guidance is:

 

  • Practice social isolation—only leaving home as necessary
  • Avoid large social gatherings
  • Cover coughs/sneezes with tissues, or cough/sneezes into the inner elbow.  
  • Practice good handwashing with soap and water as often as possible
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers ONLY if soap and water are not available.

 

What We Know About COVID-19: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a strain that is part of a large family of coronaviruses which usually cause mild respiratory illnesses, such as the ‘common cold’. 

 

Some coronaviruses have caused more severe illness, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus that was not previously identified in humans before December 2019.  

 

Quarantine and Isolation: Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It can take between 2 to 14 days after a person gets the virus in their body to become (outwardly) ill.

 

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. Your healthcare provider can assess whether a test for COVID-19 is required. Depending on your contact and/or travel history, you will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time you had contact with a positive or presumptive positive person. 

 

During the isolation period, you should not have visitors in the location where you are isolating. If you must share living quarters with another person, then that person will be subject to quarantine as well.

 

As noted above, we are asking students not to congregate and to remain as isolated as possible within their families as they can so assist in slowing the virus spread.   

 

 

Follow-up and Next Steps

This is an unprecedented public health situation that is rapidly changing. Our hope is that if we all work together, we can reduce the spread of this virus, protect our most vulnerable residents, and resume normal activities in a week or two.

 

A status update regarding school closures will be distributed to families as information is available.  Further details on the town department closures will be shared with residents through the Town website:  www.eastbridgewaterma.gov

 

We encourage everyone to visit the East Bridgewater Public School website for more information about COVID-19, with links to help you talk with your child.

 

We will keep you informed of any additional changes in operation as this rapidly evolving public health situation continues.

 

Here is a link to Covid-19 and Digital Learning Resources

 

Sincerely,

 

Elizabeth L. Legault

Superintendent