Frequently Asked Questions - Back to School 2021-2022
The 2021-2022 school year will find us returning to full in-person learning with no remote option, we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Reopening Plan covers a wide range of guidelines, topics, and information. We realize there may be additional questions that families have, and will share those frequently asked questions here. This list will be added to as we receive additional updates.
Frequently Asked Questions
Teaching and Learning
Is there still the option for my student to engage in distance learning?
During the 2020-2021 academic year, DESE required districts to offer families a remote learning option as a standard learning model.
When DESE lifted all COVID restrictions at the end of the past school year, DESE specifically stated that districts are no longer able to offer remote learning as an option to families.
This decision is based on an understanding that the quality of instruction through in-person learning and the social-emotional supports available to children when in person far exceeds what is available when we are servicing them remotely.
How will student learning be handled if they are asked to quarantine at home due to possible exposure to COVID-19?
It will be managed just as any absence due to illness in pre-COVD times -- the teacher will work with the student to the extent possible to provide continuity of work and opportunities for makeup work.
Will students stay in one classroom all day, or will they travel to other classrooms?
At the elementary level, students will remain in their classroom for core subjects and will travel to other rooms for their specials (art, music, gym, etc.). At the middle and high school level, students will travel to different classrooms for their core subjects and unified arts classes.
Health and Safety
Are students 12 and over required to be vaccinated?
No. We follow the requirements and guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MSDE) and to date, they have not indicated any new vaccine requirements.
Are students and staff required to wear protective masks?
Masks are required for all individuals inside Monomoy Regional School District buildings, regardless of vaccination status, per the School Committee and per the DESE mandate. This will be periodically reevaluated and may be adjusted with changes in community health metrics (including increases in student and staff vaccination rates and decreases in COVID case rates in our community).
In accordance with Federal mandate, all students and staff are required to wear masks while riding a school bus.
Why are masks being required?
We want our students to stay in school, in person. By requiring face coverings, our staff and students will not only help protect one another from spreading the virus, but the number of unvaccinated students who would be required to quarantine if identified as close contacts to a positive individual would decrease. Also, this guideline is in alignment with the DESE mandate for all students in Massachusetts to wear masks through at least Oct. 1, 2021.
Why aren’t masks an individual choice?
An individual not wearing a mask, vaccinated or not, has the potential to spread COVID to others. Given how contagious the Delta variant is and that even vaccinated individuals can catch or transmit this strain, masks aren’t optional even for vaccinated individuals at this moment in time. Ultimately, we are both responsible for our own health and responsible for protecting the health of others.
What kind of mask is acceptable?
Masks are expected to follow CDC recommendations, which include:
- Be at least two-ply and can be either disposable surgical style masks or reusable ones made of washable and breathable fabric
- Completely cover the student’s nose and mouth
- Fit snugly against the sides of the student’s face, without gaps
- Ideally have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.
What if my child can’t wear a mask?
Masks or face coverings will not be required for anyone who has a medical, behavioral, or other challenge making it unsafe to wear a face mask or face covering. A written note from a physician is required for a requested exemption. Any doctor’s note and the student’s case would also be reviewed by the school district’s physician. Parents may not excuse their child from the face mask requirement by signing a waiver.
Exceptions to this guideline under certain circumstances, such as for students with medical, behavioral or other challenges who are unable to wear masks, must be approved by the building principal in consultation with the school nurse or local Board of Health. Face shields or physical barriers may provide an alternative in some instances.
What if a student refuses to wear a mask?
Students who are in violation of the masking rules will initially be given the option of properly using one of the school-provided masks or an appropriate mask of their own. The building principal will consult with the parent/guardians to determine whether an exception is appropriate. Further mask violations will involve progressive discipline, and ultimately a student’s repeated refusal to mask, deliberately ignoring the potential for COVID-19 transmission, will be considered to have a substantial detrimental effect on the general welfare of the school, and will result in suspension.
Are masks required during recess or on the playing fields?
No. Masks are only required inside the buildings and on school buses.
Will masks be required for the full school year?
We hope not! We will continue to look at the rate of community transmission and vaccination rates. As they improve, changing levels of mitigation strategies (like face masks) will be reviewed. As of August 25, 2021, DESE has set a threshold of at least a 80% vaccination rate for students and staff in a school before vaccinated individuals can go maskless -- this threshold is subject to change and will likely include other local data (like community rates of COVID transmission).
If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, how will the school respond and communicate with families?
As in the previous school year, once the school is aware of a positive case, contact tracing will occur and close contacts will be notified -- the bulk of this contract tracing happens through the school nurses, with some support of the VNA and local Health Boards. Once that is complete, principals will email staff and families with pertinent information. The dashboard (listing positive cases by building by week) is available on the district website.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19 and should not be sent to school:
- Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- New loss of taste or smell
- Muscle aches or body aches
- Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
- Sore throat, when in combination with other symptoms
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when in combination with other symptoms
- Headache when in combination with other symptoms
- Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms
- Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms
This list does not include all possible symptoms. Feeling sick? Visit the CDC Symptom Checker. If there is the slightest doubt, keep the child home, call the school nurse. Our nurses will work with families and their pediatrician to make the best decision to protect your child and the health of all.
What happens if a student or staff member starts exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms while at school?
The nursing team can provide a rapid test, if parental consent is given. Parents or guardians will be notified to pick their child up from school. Staff members or students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will need a negative test or alternate diagnosis along with an improvement in symptoms to return to school.
When does a student or staff member need to stay home?
A student or staff member should stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have been tested for COVID-19 (while waiting for results), or have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19. By keeping ill individuals, and individuals who have been exposed to COVID, away from others, we can stop the spread of the virus. It is possible for people who do not have symptoms to spread the virus to others. Please inform your school nurse of any symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to COVID-19.
What type of COVID-19 test is acceptable?
The recommendation of doctors, including the district’s physician, is to use a PCR test for most accurate results, particularly for symptomatic individuals. If an individual has been exposed to a positive individual, taking a rapid test (such as BinaxNow) over multiple days can help ensure safety, but this is not as accurate as a PCR test.
How long does my student need to stay home if they tested positive OR a doctor said they likely have COVID-19?
If your student has symptoms, they should stay at home and away from others as much as possible until all three of the following have happened:
- At least 10 days have passed since their symptoms started and;
- They haven’t had a fever (100.0°F or greater) in at least 24 hours (3 days) without using any medication to lower fever (e.g. tylenol) and;
- Experienced improvement in other symptoms (for example, their cough has gotten much better).
What if my student tested positive for COVID-19, but doesn’t show symptoms?
Contact the school nurse ASAP by phone or email and keep your child home. Your student should stay home for a minimum of 10 days after the day they were tested and keep away from other people as much as possible. This is because even if they don’t have symptoms, they can still spread the virus. They should follow the guidance of their physician and local Boards of Health.
What if my student becomes sick but IS NOT tested for COVID-19?
They should stay home, in self-isolation, for 14 days from symptom onset.
What if my student becomes sick but tests negative for COVID-19?
If an individual is symptomatic at home, they should stay home and get tested. If the test result is negative, the student can return to school once symptoms have resolved and are fever free without medication for at least 24 hours. If your student has been diagnosed with something other than COVID-19 (e.g., flu or hand, foot, and mouth disease) then you should follow the doctor’s guidelines for exclusion requirements for that disease and communicate with your school nurse.
What is a “Close Contact”?
The CDC defines Close Contact as:
Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet criteria for discontinuing home isolation.
What if my student is identified as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19?
- If symptomatic -- Testing required and return is based on medical clearance.
- If asymptomatic -- Close contacts can follow the “Test and Stay” protocol: Asymptomatic close contacts will have the option to remain in school and be tested daily with BinaxNOW for at least 5 school days.
- If not doing Test and Stay -- Close contacts follow the CDC Quarantine Guidelines: 10 days quarantine if no symptoms or Negative test after Day 5 can return after Day 7.
When can a student/staff member return to school after COVID-19 symptoms?
If a student or staff member has COVID-19-like symptoms, they may return to school after they have tested negative for COVID-19, have improvement in symptoms, and have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications. If a provider makes an alternative diagnosis for the COVID-19-like symptoms, the individual may return to school based on the recommendations for that alternative diagnosis (e.g., influenza or strep pharyngitis).
If a student or staff member presents COVID-19-like symptoms and chooses not to be tested, they may return to school 10 days from start of symptoms, as long as their symptoms have improved and they have been without fever for at least 24 hours prior to their return to school without the use of fever reducing medication.
Will students or staff ever need to quarantine? If so, how will quarantining work when there are no remote learning options?
Yes. When any individual tests positive, they will be required to quarantine. In the past, we quarantined anyone with a known exposure. When any individual tests positive, they will be required to isolate. If individuals who are identified as close contacts and participate in the “Test and Stay” program, they can remain in school as long as they are asymptomatic and their BinaxNOW test remains negative.
Will Monomoy be following DESE’s “Test and Stay” recommendations?
Yes. Monomoy is adopting the State’s “test and stay” protocol. The goal of “Test and Stay ”is to allow students and staff to remain in school as safely as possible, while lessening the burden of quarantine on students, their families, teachers, and school administrators. Under the “Test and Stay” approach, students who come into contact in a school setting with an individual who tests positive will have the option of quarantine or “Test and Stay.” Individuals who are asymptomatic and who participate in the “Test and Stay” program do not need to quarantine. DESE’s current guidance suggests that vaccinated staff and students are exempt from quarantine, but that is not the position we are taking at Monomoy. Current data indicate that vaccinated individuals are testing positive for the virus so out of an abundance of caution, we will be testing all individuals regardless of vaccination status.
The “Test and Stay” program is a daily nasal swab performed by the school nurse or other qualified healthcare professional for 5 school days following exposure. For your child and/or a staff member to be eligible for this program, we must have a signed consent (coming soon) on file before testing can occur. If we do NOT have a consent form on file, your child will need to quarantine for a minimum of 7 days.
Test and Stay is only an option for asymptomatic individuals who experienced “in-school” exposure, which generally would involve masking and 3 ft. or more social distancing. Out-of-school close contacts will not generally be eligible for “Test and Stay” because the exposure was likely maskless, not socially distanced, and/or prolonged.
We now know much more about SARS-CoV-2 than we did in the past. With an array of effective mitigation strategies in place, including strict PK-12 masking protocols and higher vaccination rates, we feel confident that the “Test and Stay” strategy will keep our students and staff safe. Furthermore, we believe that PK-12 masking is a key strategy in our ability to sustain in-person learning for all our children.
Will Monomoy continue to participate in a pooled testing program?
Yes. We will use a different, more clear, name for “pooled testing” this year -- now referred to as “Routine COVID Safety Checks.” We will participate in three types of COVID-19 testing programs as outlined below. This testing will be available for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff. It is the recommendation of the CDC that even “fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 be tested 3-5 days after exposure, regardless of whether they have symptoms.”
- Symptomatic Testing: Individuals (vaccinated or unvaccinated) who become ill while at school will be tested using BinaxNOW nasal swabs. Under no circumstances should families send their symptomatic children to school for testing.
- Test and Stay: Individuals (vaccinated or unvaccinated) who are close contacts will be tested as described above. The current CDC definition of a close contact is anyone within 3 feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period and masked or 4 feet if unmasked.
Routine COVID Safety Checks: Beginning late in September, we will once again do these weekly “pooled test” safety checks, where students self-administer a nasal swab, along with their classmates. These are pooled, 10 swabs together, and are analyzed together in a lab using a highly sensitive PCR technology. If any pooled sample comes back positive, the school nurses will work with the (up to 10) families on identifying who in the pool is carrying COVID to take precautions to protect that individual and others.
Are the HVAC systems in Monomoy's buildings safe?
Yes. An independent third-party report in August 2020 confirmed that all four of our school bulidings have HVAC systems that are capable of delivering proper ventilation. The full report can be found here.
How will classrooms be set up to maximize safety for students and staff?
Classrooms will be set up according to the guidance established by DESE, CDC, and our local health authority, adhering to a guideline of 3 feet of distance at a minimum and up to 6 feet when possible. Using these guidelines, we will establish adequate space for both staff and students to occupy classrooms and other instructional space to maximize safety, which will include, setting desks up in rows, limiting the number of staff and students in each space, maximizing the distances between student desks and between staff members in each classroom, and equipping each space with the proper PPE to safely allow student-teacher engagement.
How often will classrooms, restrooms, common spaces be cleaned? Why is there no day devoted to cleaning?
Our approach to cleaning our facilities is that it needs to be a continuous, constant process. Our facilities team will be continually cleaning bathrooms, door handles, etc., throughout each day to ensure a high level of sanitation. If a classroom has been occupied by an individual testing positive for COVID-19, the space will be cleaned with a fogger that safely reaches all surfaces that evening.
Will students be able to take the bus to a friend or relative's home?
No, students will only be able to use the bus transportation to and from their home address.
How will parent dropoff/pickup work?
With many more families providing transportation and the need for physical distancing, each school will need to adjust the procedures for parents dropoff and pickup. The times and the locations for dropoff and pickup will be expanded in order to accommodate higher traffic. Specific details, including times and locations, will be shared by each school.
Can students get dropped off at school early?
Yes, students may be dropped off at school a few minutes early. Check with the specific school administration to determine the timeframe for early drop-off.
Will breakfast and lunch be free again this year?
Yes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended school meal waivers through the end of the 2021-2022 school year, allowing the continuation of universal free school meals at any school district throughout the state throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Students are able to purchase additional items or second meals, so families may want to fund the student MySchoolBucks accounts. More information is available here.
What is the plan for fall sports?
Fall sports will be held at both the middle school and high school.
Will there be activities like chorus, band, clubs?
Yes. In-person clubs, activities, and extracurriculars will be held, using the same protocols as during the school day (masks required, spacing). MRMS and MRHS will follow EEA/MIAA guidelines for all athletics. Until mask guidelines are revised based on public health metrics, any indoor in-person athletic events will require masks for all.
How do I talk with my student about staying home from school and COVID-19?
Here are some tips for talking with children:
- Remain calm while talking.
- Let them know they are safe and it is okay to feel upset.
- Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
- Avoid language that might blame or stigmatize others.
- Pay attention to what children see or hear in the media or from other adults.
- Provide truthful and developmentally appropriate information.
- Talk about new actions that may be taken at school to help protect your students and staff.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Public Health for even more tips on talking with your children about COVID-19.