By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – The Northborough School Committee (Grades K-8) met on Oct. 7. Updates on the District’s COVID response and school bus transportation were given as well as a reopening updates shared by the K-8 principals.
The District’s website (www.nsboro.k12.ma.us) now has a dashboard that will be updated twice weekly based on state data and will be a snapshot as to what is happening in the District.
Currently, Northborough is at a yellow status; Southborough has been upgraded to a red status.
District Director of Wellness Mary Ellen Duggan discussed the protocols and school closure guidelines the District will take for reported positive cases in the schools.
The COVID Response Team will meet immediately to determine if there is in-school transmission happening.
“We have all these mitigation strategies in place to hopefully prevent that and as of right now we have had no in-school transmissions,” said Duggan. “If there is suspected in-school transmission beyond one cohort or a small number of cohorts, the COVID Response Team would be activated, consult with the Board of Health and propose next steps. Each positive case is individual and needs to be treated individually.”
The same steps would be in place if multiple cases were reported in multiple schools.
The options include closing for a short amount of time or closing and quarantining the whole school for 14 days.
“Obviously, we are watching what happens in our community as a whole, in both communities, but we are really watching for in-school transmission in cases,” said Superintendent Greg Martineau.
The District is pursuing COVID testing options for faculty, staff and students.
“There are a number of options,” said Martineau. “One of the challenges right now is the price point of the tests. The lowest price for a test at this point is $15/per person. It is quite a significant weekly cost. We do think it is an important part of our mitigation efforts within our school system.”
School bus transportation update
The start of school often brings a lot of transportation issues, but this year has been successful.
Director of Operations Keith Lavoie and the Transportation Coordinator Jean Pinto worked to confirm ridership and to create a skeletal design of all the routes so there will be consistency in the routes in place even when students return to full, in person instruction.
Few complaints have been received about the routes and Lavoie has tried to be responsive to suggestions from bus drivers, the bus company, principals and parents.
“Collectively, the suggestions have been very reasonable and in fact it’s better to have more eyes than not enough,” said Lavoie. “People are seeing things that they think could be adjusted and we are responding accordingly.”
The District will be launching the Here Comes the Bus app, which will allow parents to track the bus arrival and dismissal time. Currently, the GPS is being evaluated to ensure it is as accurate as possible.
The principals reported that it was a smooth reopening given all the unique circumstances. They all echoed their gratitude to those involved in that process and how great it was to have students back into the building and everyone was settling into a routine.
Marion E. Zeh School Principal Amy Souls said they are moving forward with many things that have been done in a regular school year, such as holding the first PTO meeting and planning their walk/bike-to- school days, a virtual fall book fair and a read out loud night.
Souls said she is amazed at not having to remind students about wearing masks often and credits families for preparing students well. Teachers have had to spend less time on these routines than they thought they would.
“You can tell that they have created good habits at home; that this is not a foreign environment to wear a mask,” she said. “They are comfortable and respectful. We all super proud.”
Marguerite E. Peaslee School Principal Dr. Mary Coakley, who has been in the position since March, felt the excitement in the air as she finally entered the building for the first time with students.
Robert E. Melican Middle School started their hybrid model on Sept. 29. Principal Michelle Karb commented that the teachers have worked very hard to be adaptable and flexible and everyone is learning and growing.
“Some of my veteran staff who have been teaching for 20 or 25 years have said they feel like a brand new teacher all over again,” she said.
The middle school is currently working on their open house video and two half days for parent/teacher conferences are scheduled for Nov. 16 and 23.
Martineau acknowledged how challenging a time it is and how difficult it is to be an educator right now.
“I just want to applaud our teachers because they are working so hard on the behalf of our students,” he said.