August 27, 2021
Dear APS families and staff,
As we prepare to welcome our students back to class next week, I wanted to provide our families and staff with some COVID-19 guidance for the start of the school year. I know there have been many questions, and while I am able to address most, this information is always subject to the changing conditions of the pandemic. Our primary goal is to maintain an environment that provides our best chance for in-person learning for the duration of the school year.
We will provide any updates as they become available. I wish you all a safe and healthy year ahead!
Rita Casper MBA RN NCSN
Director of Nursing
Andover Public Schools
|Governor Baker lifted the “COVID-19 Restrictions” order in June, 2021. This means that all protocols and guidelines set by the state, DESE or DPH for the 2020-21 school year were discontinued, with the exception of the DESE mask mandate. There are no capacity limitations in school spaces and no physical distancing requirements at this time.|
- The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released guidance on May 27, 2021 and updated information on July 30, 2021 requiring that all Massachusetts school districts be in-person, full-time, five days a week for fall 2021-22. At this time, APS will not operate a hybrid or remote learning academy for 2021-22.
Masks & Face Coverings
- Effective Monday, August 16, 2021 – all students, staff, and visitors at Andover Public Schools will be required to wear masks while indoors per school committee policy EBCFA. This is regardless of vaccination status and applies to all grade levels (PreK-12).
- Accommodations will be made for those individuals for whom face masks are not possible due to medical conditions, disability impact, a significant impediment to communication or other health or safety factors, which for students, may include behavioral challenges. A written note from a physician submitted to the school nurse is required to request an exemption. If families have questions, please contact your school nurse directly. Families may not excuse their child from the face mask requirement by signing a waiver.
Additional Health Protocols
- This school year, all families are required to acknowledge and agree to the COVID-19 attestation in the Back-to-School forms. When logged into your family ASPEN account, look for the “Family-Connection - Back to School Forms” link. We continue to ask staff and families to self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms, stay home if they are symptomatic, and contact their primary care physician immediately.
- Students and staff who arrive at school and display COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home immediately and will need a negative PCR test per Department of Public Health protocols or be required to present documentation from their primary care physician verifying a non-COVID-19 related illness in order to return to school.
COVID-19 Test and Quarantine Information
- Quarantine protocols will follow appropriate protocols defined by DESE and DPH.
- Vaccination is highly encouraged. Vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic and identified as a close contact do not need to quarantine but need to continue to self-monitor for symptoms.
- APS plans to use the Test & Stay option, as provided by DESE. This testing will be available at all schools to students and staff who develop symptoms while at school and will require permission from a parent/guardian for students. Staff will need to sign consent to test. From DESE:
- Districts are strongly encouraged to utilize the new Test and Stay protocol option to minimize the amount of time individuals are out of school. This protocol has been shown to be generally equivalent to quarantine for school-based contacts, and a safe alternative to at-home isolation.
- "Test and Stay" (close contact testing): Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school using the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test or another approved diagnostic test. Tests are administered daily from the first day of exposure for at least five (5) days.
- APS plans to offer Symptomatic Testing, as provided by DESE.
- This testing will be available at all schools to students and staff who develop symptoms while at school and will require permission from a parent/guardian for students.
- Results will be available in 15 minutes. If negative, individuals can remain in school. Positive test results will result in immediate dismissal.
- Any student who tests positive for COVID-19 or has undiagnosed COVID-19-like symptoms, will be dismissed as soon as possible and will not be permitted to travel on any school transportation.
COVID-19 Dashboard and Contract Tracing
- Similar to last year, APS will provide information on new cases on our website. This information will be available after the Labor Day holiday.
- Contract tracing in classrooms will continue for the start of the school year.
Lunch and Food Services
- Social distancing of three (3) feet will be maintained at all elementary school cafeterias during lunch. Andover High School and middle schools can accommodate lunch periods outdoors, weather permitting.
- Through a partnership with the USDA, APS will continue offering free meals for all families through June 2022. These meals will be available for all students at all grade levels and include one lunch and one breakfast per-student daily.
- Families of pre-K to grade 5 students must pre-order at this link: https://onlineordering.linq.com/ in order to receive meals.
- Families of grade 6-12 students do not need to pre-order meals but are recommended to do so at the link above.
- If your family qualifies for the free and reduced lunch program; we ask that you still complete the on-line application for this year. The application can be found at https://www.lunchapp.com/
- All athletics, performing arts, after-school, and other extracurricular activities are required to follow the district’s EBCFA-Face Coverings policy.
- Masks are required for any sports related activity for student-athletes and coaches when indoors, in alignment with guidance provided by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
- We hope to offer a COVID-19 vaccination clinic later this fall for staff and students. COVID-19 vaccination is highly encouraged for eligible individuals to reduce the risk of quarantine and illness. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health provides resources on where to get a vaccine here.
- DESE has lifted its mandate regarding the influenza (flu) vaccine, however, we strongly encourage eligible individuals to vaccinate. We plan to offer influenza vaccination clinics for students and staff later this fall.