NPS District News
January 6, 2022
Dear NPS Families,
What a week! While there have been inevitable challenges, I am grateful for the terrific work that so many people have done to ensure that our schools could remain open in a healthy and safe manner.
I knew our dedicated faculty and staff members were ready for the week when over 1000 of them came to Newton City hall in the rain last Sunday on their last day of vacation, where we distributed over 1000 individual test kits. It was also clear to me from our multiple district and principal meetings over the holiday weekend that we were well prepared for a range of staffing scenarios. We have had almost 90% of our staff reporting to work every day this week and have been able to appropriately staff all of our buildings safely and adequately so that important learning can continue.
As the surge continues, it is also essential that we receive the most up to date information from a range of medical experts with a keen understanding of schools. Last night, we had a very productive meeting with our Medical Advisory Group. These medical experts continue to share useful information and we continue to implement their recommendations in our schools. The guidance from last night will be shared with you as quickly as possible.
Thank you for what you are doing to keep our school communities healthy. I am confident that working together, we will get through this moment in the pandemic.
Please stay healthy and safe.
COVID Protocols - Masks
We encourage everyone to consider upgrading their masks, if possible. You may consider trying out higher quality masks such as KN95, N95, KF-94 or surgical masks, which offer higher levels of protection.
IMPORTANT! No mask will be effective if it is not worn properly. The best mask is one that your student can wear comfortably for the entire school day and fits properly on their face. Please ensure your child(ren) understands how to properly and consistently wear a mask, which will reinforce the same messaging we are providing in schools.
A reminder that regardless of vaccination status, all staff and students Pre-K-12 are required to wear a face-covering throughout the day (including on the bus) except while eating, drinking, or outside. The face covering should be well fitting, covering the nose and mouth. Make sure the mask fits snugly against the face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask. Pick a mask with layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ out. A mask with layers will stop more respiratory droplets getting inside your mask or escaping from your mask if you are sick.
For mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, please visit this link: CDC Mask guidance
Additional Mask Information
NPS parent Jon Levy, Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, provided helpful information and links on higher quality masks. Here is a short paragraph he provided to us and we are grateful for his input:
KF94, KN95, or N95 masks do a better job of protecting from COVID-19. This is both because of fit (fewer gaps for air to come in) and filtration (the material of the mask). You may even find that a higher quality mask is more comfortable and easier to wear for the day than a cloth mask.
Also, though these are often billed as single use, experts confirm that you can actually wear them multiple times without a problem. Good practice is to have a few and rotate them - wear one and hang it up or put it in a paper bag for a few days, then reuse. You can generally get about 40 hours of use out of a KF94 or KN95, and more from an N95, though they should be discarded if they get wet or dirty or no longer fit tightly. This will cut down on the cost of upgrading your masks.
Recommendations on how to find the best mask for your child and some helpful background information can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A88AGnN-nwI, and a comprehensive testing database can be found here: https://www.armbrustusa.com/pages/mask-testing. You want the highest filtration with the best breathability possible (lower numbers are better for breathability).
One important tip is to be careful of counterfeits on the market, especially for KN95s. Consider reputable non-profits such as Projectn95.org, or from some of the websites recommended at the links above. Many of these sites sell in larger batches, so families may wish to come together to purchase an assortment of masks so kids can have a few options to try.
Daily Health Assessment
It is critical that all families conduct the daily health assessment every day before your student comes to school. If your student is sick, please keep them at home. Be alert for the following symptoms:
Fever (100.0F 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
COVID Communication Notification/Contact Tracing Update
Given the COVID surge we are now experiencing, we are forced to adjust our contact tracing protocols in our schools. For the next few weeks, we will not be able to conduct contact tracing at the middle and high school levels. We will conduct contact tracing as feasible at the elementary level.
In lieu of contact tracing, we will notify a classroom, grade, or team that there was a positive case in the classroom and advise families and staff to actively monitor for symptoms, and to stay home if symptoms develop.
For the complete COVID notification protocol, please review this document: COVID Communication Protocol
COVID Protocols - Meals
To manage lunch and snacks, we will continue to utilize the health and safety protocols available to us. Our lunch and snack breaks are short, limiting the time students are unmasked. Students are instructed to only remove their mask when they are actively eating and drinking and to put the mask back on when finished. We ask students to stay seated during the meal and to talk quietly.
We do also spread students out to the extent it is possible and many of our schools have come up with ways to creatively distance students during meals or offer more outside time during lunch, depending on the physical space and age of the students. Finally, we have increased ventilation in the spaces in which students are eating, where possible.
Below are more specifics by level of protocols for meals:
At the elementary level, we stagger seating, prevent face to face eating, and distance as much as possible, including eating in separate locations for classes as supervision and space allows. Staff supervise students to ensure that they minimize maskless time by encouraging students to focus on their eating and promptly put their masks on when finished. We continue to eat outdoors as weather permits.
At the middle school level, our students are spread across several areas in each school to maximize spacing while eating. Middle Schools are also exploring how to maintain outdoor options during winter months when feasible and weather permitting.
At the high school level, our students are able to eat in several designated areas in the school to maximize spacing as well, and open campus for lunch is now offered to students in grades 9-12.
Updated CDC Guidance on Isolation and Quarantine
On December 28, 2021, the CDC updated its guidance on the isolation time period for those who have tested positive for COVID-19. This guidance has now been adopted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
If you test positive for COVID-19:
Stay home for 5 days.
If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your home but you must continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others for 5 additional days.
A reminder that an isolated individual is one who has tested positive for COVID; a quarantined individual is one who has been identified as a close contact but has not tested positive for COVID. You can review the updated DESE guidance for isolation and quarantine here: DESE Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine - Updated December 30, 2021.
NPS COVID Case Data
There are two sources of information on positive COVID cases in the Newton Public Schools. You can view the Newton HHS webpage, which shows all positive cases of students and staff in our schools. Positive cases are from all sources, not just from in-school testing. The Newton HHS website is here: COVID Cases in the Newton Public Schools.
You can also view data on positive pools for the populations we are currently testing. This data dashboard can be found here: NPS Pool Testing Dashboard.
Booster Shot Clinics - Ages 12-15
With the approval of booster shots for students ages 12-15, we will again be working with the Holtzman Medical Group to host booster shot clinics. All NPS families will be notified once clinic details have been arranged.
NPS Vaccine Rates
Below please find a graphic that show current vaccine rates for students in the Newton Public Schools
Winter weather is upon us as we are expecting snow late tonight. Here is a quick reminder of our snow day notification procedures.
To receive text messages, you must opt-in. To opt-in, please login to Aspen, navigate to the contact information section, and select “yes” for SMS messages in the drop-down box below your cell phone number.
Following a storm, many of our students will continue to walk to school. We have collaborated with Newton DPW to create maps showing sidewalks that will be plowed, ensuring safe routes to school. Please access the maps here.
For more detailed information on school operations in winter weather, please visit our webpage here: https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/weather
Please see an important message from the City of Newton below:
The Department of Public Works and Parks, Recreation, and Culture have worked diligently to improve our snow removal operations and response time. However, we anticipate the combination of the supply chain issues and especially the driver shortage to increase the amount of time it takes us to clear streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. In the event of a winter storm, the Departments of Public Works and Parks, Recreation and Culture will make every effort to clear the streets, sidewalks, school bus stops, and school parking lots for students and teachers before the school day starts. Please know that depending on the storm there may be more times that school openings will be delayed or school will be canceled.
Reminder! Please remember to shovel snow from your sidewalk so that students can get to school safely this winter. Newton's snow shoveling ordinance requires residents to clear the sidewalk in front of their properties within 24 hours of the storm ending. As we have been doing a lot these last two years, please lend a hand to your neighbors if they need help.
Calling all Kindergarteners!
If your child turns 5 years old before September 1, 2022, you are eligible to start Kindergarten in the Newton Public Schools next fall! To help NPS with planning, class size, and school enrollment, please complete this form.
It will help the district to plan for the 2022-23 school year and to stay in touch with your family as the registration process begins. To find out more about registration for Kindergarten, please visit this webpage on the Newton Public School district website: www.newton.k12.ma.us/kindergarten
School Calendar for the 2022-23 School Year
At their meeting on Monday, December 6, 2021, the Newton School Committee approved the calendar for the 2022-23 school year. You can find it here:
NPS School Calendar 2022-23 (PDF Document)