Back to School FAQ
What PK-8 health and safety protocols are being recommended now by health experts and key decision-makers in light of the Delta variant of the virus?
Here is a timeline and summary of the most recent guidance issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) and elected and appointed State officials:
- 07-19-2021: American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a “layered approach to make school safe for all students, teachers, and staff.” The AAP’s guidance “includes a recommendation that everyone older than age 2 wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.”
- 07-27-2021: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest a return to indoor mask-wearing in this CDC guidance, stating that the “CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
- 07-30-2021: In collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH), the Commissioner of Education released this new guidance for PK-12 public schools. Governor Baker spoke in support of the Commissioner’s recommendation later in the day.
- 08-09-2021: The Sudbury School Committee voted to amend School Committee Policy EBCFA: Face Coverings. This policy establishes that “a face covering that covers the nose and mouth must be worn by all individuals in school buildings, on school grounds and on school transportation, even when social distancing is observed.” The August 9th update allows the Superintendent of Schools discretion over whether “to suspend or enforce [the policy] as necessary based upon local health information and advisories.”
- 08-10-2021: Sudbury Board of Health advised that all individuals aged two years and above wear face coverings in all indoor spaces, public or private (open to the public), including but not limited to the following: public buildings; schools and private childcare facilities; retail stores; retail food stores; food establishments and bars until the customer is seated; Fitness centers/health clubs, dance studios, and all recreational facilities; Houses of worship; personal service establishments such as barber shops and hair and nail salons allowing for temporary removal during service.
The guidance from the AAP, the CDC, and the MA DPH is inconsistent. What are the health and safety rules that SPS will follow in the upcoming school year?
Governor Baker noted that Massachusetts has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, which may account for the variation in the approach to back to school guidance. Sudbury Public Schools have consistently followed the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); in an effort to avoid confusion and keep students in school, we will continue to do so. The simplest way to frame the health and safety protocols and expectations for the upcoming school year is this—SPS will start the school year the same way we ended it:
- Masks are required for all students and staff, vaccinated or unvaccinated, when indoors and on school buses.
- Physical distancing will be required while eating indoors and during defined activities.
- Outdoors is still the safest place to be! No masking or physical distancing is required when outdoors.
We understand that staying up-to-date on the latest guidance can be a challenge. To help you understand DESE's current COVID guidelines, please take a few moments to watch this brief video.
Will my child be required to wear a mask while being bussed to and from school?
Yes, bus riders will be required to wear masks at all times while being transported.
My child benefited from the free lunch program offered during the 2020-2021 school year. Will that be returning?
Yes, lunch and a breakfast “snack” are available free of charge to all students, but do require students to pre-order. Hand washing and sanitizing will be required before eating and when transitioning from one space to another.
Sudbury Public Schools prohibited outside visitors and vendors last year. Will that continue this year?
We are happy to once again welcome third party in-school enrichment activities back to our schools, with agreements between SPS and the providers that all SPS SPS safety protocols, including being masked and vaccinated, will be followed. Additionally, visitors to the schools will be permitted by appointment and with the requirement of wearing a mask and observing all school COVID protocols.
Safety protocols previously restricted the use of communal resources such as library books and water fountains. How do the new year’s protocols address those?
Water fountains will be functional, although we recommend that students use and refill a personal water bottle using the touch free feature of the fountains. Students will also be permitted to share materials, including library books.
Will the Sudbury Public Schools be offering a remote learning option for families at the start of the 2021-2022 school year?
Per regulations promulgated by DESE, no public school district, including the Sudbury Public Schools, will be offering a remote learning option at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. All learning is to be conducted in-person, all five days of the week.
What, if any, COVID testing will be done in the schools this fall?
Sudbury Public Schools will continue to offer weekly surveillance testing. This testing will prioritize those who are not vaccinated. Unlike last year, students in grades k-1 will now be permitted to self-administer the surveillance nasal swab, if they are able. A trained observer will supervise the students to ensure proper sample collection.
Is this the same program that was administered following the return to school last spring?
Not exactly. Following the detection of a positive pool, contact tracing will be conducted and close contacts will be tested using a rapid test which can provide results in 15 minutes or less. This “Test and Stay” procedure will allow unvaccinated asymptomatic individuals who test “negative” to stay in school. Asymptomatic vaccinated staff and students will also be allowed to stay in school if identified as a close contact. “Positive” or symptomatic students and staff will enter a quarantine period coordinated by the District’s nursing staff. More information on the Test and stay procedure can be found here.
What are the different kinds of COVID tests available, and which are preferred by SPS?
A molecular PCR test is the preferred test when ruling out COVID-19 in the case of illness. We do accept rapid Antigen tests. Depending on the testing site, PCR results are coming back within 24 hours. The majority of home tests are not accepted; please ask your school nurse if you have any questions.
Where can I get a Covid-19 PCR test done?
Anyone interested in getting tested for COVID-19 can use this tool from the State to locate a testing site.
If my child is tested for COVID-19 outside of school, can they attend school while awaiting results?
No. While you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, your child should quarantine at home. Once you receive the results, please send them to your school nurse.
Can my child go to school if another family member is sick at home?
If a family member is ill but has not been identified as COVID-19 positive, children who are asymptomatic may attend school. If the ill family member receives a positive test result, then all children must quarantine at home and be tested.
Do the siblings of a close contact need to stay home while their COVID tests are pending?
No. Siblings are just contacts of a contact. So as long as the sibling in quarantine does not develop any symptoms of illness or test positive, then the non-quarantining siblings may continue to attend school.
- The siblings should separate from the quarantining individual during this time to reduce their chances of exposure should the quarantining child become ill themselves.
- If the close contact does get a positive test result or develop symptoms, then the siblings would be considered close contacts and would need to get tested AND quarantine according to the above 7/10/14 day guidelines.
Without a remote learning option, what services will be provided for students who are required to isolate?
School based educational teams will develop and implement a COVID Learning Plan for students who can not attend school during isolation periods.
How will the school buildings be maintained to prevent the spread of COVID?
The schools will continue to ventilate the buildings using upgraded filters and will operate the HVAC units before spaces are occupied. The schools will also continue to be sanitized daily. As a part of the budgeting process, we have transitioned from a third-party vendor to district-assigned custodians for this important work.
Is the guidance being issued today the final word on how SPS will prevent the transmission of COVID over the course of the 2021-2022 school year?
No. Federal, state, and local guidance regarding COVID continue to evolve, so families and staff can anticipate further updates. We will continue to keep our COVID dashboard updated and send notifications regarding positive cases.