DISTRICT UPDATE

October 22, 2021

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Dear Parents and Guardians,


This week, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah held a Zoom meeting with school administrators across the state to share insights on school versus community transmission of COVID, explain the science behind certain aspects of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), and what to expect in the coming months. He also provided an opportunity for Superintendents to ask clarifying questions related to the SOP recommendations and share parental concerns about the complex quarantine exceptions and pooled testing.


Overall, Maine is seeing the lowest rates of COVID in schools. We are following public health guidelines through universal masking and completing more pooled testing than much larger states. These precautionary measures have allowed our students to stay in school and remain healthy. Here are some additional highlights from the meeting:


  • Quarantine and School-Related Exceptions:

    • The distinctions between school-related activities versus community-related activities when it comes to quarantine are based on long-standing epidemiology principles. The goal is fundamentally to not introduce new risk; therefore, the exceptions related to school activities have already taken the current risk into account while reducing new risk from being introduced from community activities.

  • Pooled Testing and At-Home Testing:

    • In principle, pooled testing allows schools to identify early detection of COVID with the goal to mitigate the risk of transmission so we are not further exposing others. The epidemiology seems to indicate success in reducing transmission within the schools through quick identification and no secondary cases.

    • Pooled Testing is exceedingly safe. It is a quick roll of a cotton swab of which has no chemical on the swab itself when placed in the child’s nose.

    • When it comes to public health, the Maine CDC does not recognize at-home tests. In addition, tests remain difficult to find and are expensive which can create equity issues. Another epidemiology concept is “Test to Stay” where students will test periodically to remain in class; pooled testing accomplishes this.

    • The current systems and protocols in place for pooled testing have been vetted (i.e. same location, regular timeframe, collected and stored correctly in a temperature-controlled environment, processed in the same manner, etc.) versus parental discretion and protocols for at-home testing which has not been assessed. All schools across the state are utilizing the same testing process for accurate results.

  • Outbreak Status:

    • The use of the word “outbreak” may be scary and misunderstood by some. When the Maine CDC classifies a school as “outbreak” status, it means an investigation will be open to review the time, space, or another manner in which the two or more cases may be epidemiologically linked. It is not meant to imply there is a surge in transmission among the masses but to ensure contact tracing occurs quickly to reduce further transmission.

  • Vaccinations for Youth Ages 5-11:

    • The FDA could expand its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID vaccine to children ages 5-11 as soon as November 3rd. This would allow as many as 80,000 children in Maine to be fully vaccinated by 2022. The Maine CDC is recommending a school-based approach (similar to H1N1) in addition to the vaccine being available at physician offices, clinics, and pharmacies (Read more in PPH article).

    • In anticipation of this announcement, we are working with MaineHealth to plan several community-wide vaccine clinics for youth as soon as the second week in November. More information will follow.

    • Those who are fully vaccinated would not need to quarantine or change their schedule if exposed. It is recommended that they wear a mask and test 3-5 days later. The more individuals who are vaccinated, the fewer cases and outbreaks our schools will experience.


COLD WEATHER IS HERE

I followed up directly with the Maine DOE regarding transportation and several windows remaining open as we begin to enter colder temperatures. Although keeping the windows open is no longer a requirement within the SOP, the Maine DOE issued the following caveat: “increased ventilation decreases the risk of transmission.” It remains a requirement to keep seating charts for identifying close contacts if there is a positive case. Weather permitting, we will attempt to keep several windows partially open (1-2 inches) to reduce risk and ask parents to ensure their child comes prepared with mittens, hats, and multiple layers to remain warm while on the ride to school.


If your child is in need of warm winter gear, please reach out to your child(ren)’s principal and we will do our best to assist thanks to limited grant funding. If you decide to transport your child(ren) to school yourself instead of utilizing the bus, please call the bus transportation office at 282-0909 to prevent unnecessary stops.


KINDNESS MATTERS

I meet with our School Nurses on a regular basis and I also receive follow-up calls from upset parents when their child has to quarantine or miss activities or sporting events. As a parent who has had to navigate the quarantine process for my own children, I understand it is inconvenient and often upsetting, especially with the complex exceptions that are now in play. Yet, I am asking parents to please treat our nurses with respect and kindness when they have to deliver this unfortunate news. They are simply the messenger and have to follow the guidelines within the Maine CDC SOP. Over the last year, they have had to yield hundreds of calls from parents and staff about quarantine and exposure, add-on testing and contact tracing, and continue to care for students who come in for other health concerns not related to COVID. I urge parents to consider vaccination or pooled testing to reduce the chances of full quarantine but, more importantly, be kind to our nurses. We need them and so do your children.


Stay Well,

Jeremy Ray

Superintendent of Schools

NURSING UPDATE

Influenza Vaccination

Influenza (flu) remains a virus which we encourage families to consider annual vaccination. For any students or family members who have not yet been vaccinated, you can schedule an appointment at your doctor’s office, local pharmacies and clinics (click on CDC’s VaccineFinder), or there is a Drive-Thru clinic each Wednesday from 3-6 PM at MaineHealth Care at Home, 15 Industrial Park Road in Saco, through November 10th.

Quarantine Exceptions Based on Exposure

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NURSING NEWS: Pooled Testing and More!

CLICK HERE FOR EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CONSENTS, POOLED TESTING, QUARANTINE EXCEPTIONS, IMMUNIZATIONS, MEDICATIONS, AND MORE!

DISTRICTS WORKING TOGETHER TO BENEFIT OUR VULNERABLE YOUTH

The Maine Department of Education received over $2.6 million in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act’s Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) program to support students experiencing homelessness. The DEO elected to award 75 percent of the state’s funding to districts and consortia, determined in part by a district’s population of children and youth experiencing homelessness and a district’s Title I-A allocation.


The Biddeford, Dayton, and Saco Schools joined in a consortium again for this grant and was awarded an additional $35,028, bringing the year-to-date total in consortium awards to $77,028. In addition, the Biddeford and Dayton Schools received an additional $23,000 in private funding to support the needs of homeless, housing-insecure, and hungry students. More than $100,000 is being invested in our communities to help keep at-risk kids fed, transported, and in schools.

RED RIBBON WEEK (October 23-31)

Red Ribbon Week is a community movement surrounding drug prevention in youth providing activities and education to deter them from using drugs. It comes with a pledge that youth can sign to live a drug-free life and schools will raise awareness through age-appropriate messaging during the week.


Ways to Show Your Support of a Drug-free Life:

  • Participate in Wear Red Day on Wednesday, October 27th

  • View the film “LIKE,” provided by Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition (CHCC)’s Project Alliance. This documentary examines why social media is irresistible and gives tools to pivot to a better-balanced and contented relationship with social media. This film will be available for viewing through October 28th via this link.

  • View the film, “Don’t Wait,” also provided by CHCC’s Project Alliance. This film discusses substance use in teens and how parents can prevent it within their families and will be available for viewing from October 23-November 28 via this link (or Facebook event).

DRUG TAKE BACK DAY

Saturday, October 23, 10 AM - 2 PM at Biddeford Public Works


The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. The survey also showed that a majority of misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. The DEA’s Take Back Day events provide an opportunity for Americans to prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths.
DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Campaign (October 23, 2021) 6 sec CC

SACO HARVEST FESTIVAL

Come on down to the Saco Main Street 21st Annual Pumpkin Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 23rd from 11am-4pm! The event will feature Fun and Games for kids, a “Trunk or Treat” area, Costume Contest, Pie Eating Contests, Horse Drawn Wagon Rides, and more.


Biddeford, Saco, and Dayton Schools will also be passing out treats and administration will be present to highlight our open positions, answer any employment questions or process an application on the spot.


HEART OF BIDDEFORD'S CREEPY CRAWL

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WE ARE AT RISK OF LOSING FUNDING

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Be Prepared to Thrive!

Biddeford Ready! is a community-wide effort to help the youngest members of the Biddeford community – from birth to age 5 – get the resources they need to be ready to enter kindergarten and prepared to thrive in school and beyond.


Like their Facebook page for education tips, creative ideas to engage children in fun activities, and community-wide resources and events. For more information about Biddeford Ready! and the community partners, visit their website.