BBRSD District-Wide Weekly Update
October 1, 2021
Mask Mandate Extended
On Monday, September 27, Commissioner Jeffrey Riley extended the school mask mandate which will be in place until at least November 1, 2021. The Commissioner will revisit the requirement in the near future to revise it as warranted by public health data. Please read the entire document here.
Public school students (age 5 and above) and staff in all grades are required to wear masks indoors in schools, except as noted below. Masks are not required when outdoors. All visitors are also expected to wear a mask in school buildings.
Masks should cover an individual’s nose and mouth. For more information about appropriate mask use, please click here.
Congratulations to Chief Anthony Sahagian
Today marks the final duty day of Boylston Police Chief, Anthony Sahagian. The BBRSD staff would like to take a moment to thank and congratulate the Chief on his more than 21 years of service to the Boylston Police Department.
BBRSD is a proud partner of BPD and we hope the future brings Chief Sahagian all the happiness and fulfillment he deserves. We send our sincerest thanks for all he has done for the staff, students, parents, and community.
Update on Test & Stay Program
Over the course of this past week, the challenges and questioning of the Test & Stay Program have been brought to the surface in a way that has laid open the fresh wounds of this most recent stage of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in our schools. I want to speak to this and ask for a few moments of your time to best communicate our current situation, how we arrived here, and what to anticipate in the near future.
To begin with, the purpose of implementing a Test & Stay Program in our school district is to keep our students in school as much as possible. This is done by reducing the quarantine time or even eliminating it for students deemed “in close contact” with an individual who has tested positive for COVID. We anticipated that the program would be successfully up and running by today, Friday, October 1st, however, as we have watched unfold over these past eighteen months, our well-intentioned plans and best efforts have been derailed so many times that to apologize for circumstances we cannot control would seem disingenuous.
With 1074 students currently enrolled in our district, approximately 80 students have been identified as “close contact” up until today. The largest number of students who faced quarantine took place last Friday when 40 students went home for this reason, and we are fortunate that the majority of these students were able to return by today. There is a choice to be made here, and as our Superintendent of Schools, I firmly stand by my decision to maintain our approach to returning all students to school from the beginning of the year, fully masked, and able to engage in classroom activities with as much normalcy as possible.
Though strict social distancing may have reduced the need to quarantine to the extent that we have thusfar, we cannot return to these requirements, not only for lack of a state mandate, but out of a moral responsibility to our students. It has been too long that they, our families, our teachers, and our administrators have been operating in an artificial world of virtual sessions and a learning environment devoid of the kind of social-emotional engagement that allows them to thrive, not only as students, but as human beings. We are watching with great sadness and concern the gravity of what is unfolding as a result of the time that was stolen from them, from all of us, due to the pandemic. I cannot emphasize this enough in our decision to enable our students and staff to experience, as much as possible, the freedoms they should be afforded in our public schools.
I want to walk you back to the introduction to the Test and Stay program, which was introduced to us as a protocol option on August 13, 2021. We quickly registered and received DESE confirmation on August 16, 2021. I spoke with an Associate Commissioner in charge of the program on August 17, 2021 to discuss testing options open to the district and we received a confirmation from the CIC, who serve as the DESE testing consultants, on August 19, 2021 to confirm our registration and get us in the queue. As such, we have had to “wait our turn” along with smaller and, in some cases, mid-sized districts, and obstacles related to software, kits, training and resources, and noted below were among those we have faced since then:
The CIC subcontracted with another organization (the JUDGE group) to provide consultants to each district. The consultant with whom we were assigned was new to the program and could not immediately provide us with the information we needed.
Our nurses were provided with TWO separate passwords into the Crush the Curve portal needed to set up and maintain data for the program. Neither of these worked and needed to be replaced.
Our nurses also needed to have their masks specifically fitted to become certified to test students. This training has been twice delayed.
I would also add that two of our three nurses are new to the district and only began on August 26, 2021 as part of our staff. Unfamiliar to even the Test and Stay program, they and their veteran colleague have been working diligently since then to get the program up and running.
We may continue to face additional and sometimes larger quarantine situations until we can safely and effectively begin the Test & Stay program. It is coming - we have set a new target date of Tuesday, October 12th as our launch date, provided that we continue on the path we have been following to meet the necessary requirements of the program. I know that many times I have asked for your patience but more than that, I ask for your cooperation and partnership. This is not us against one another. It is us working together to ensure that our students and staff are safe. That is why I continue to ask you to keep your child home if they are not feeling well or if you are not feeling well. In the meantime, our administrative team and nursing staff will do all that we can to expedite the Test and Stay Program as another layer of protection and a way to provide our students with the education they deserve.
Jeff Zanghi, Superintendent of Schools
Business Office News
Food Service Supply Chain Challenges
Many school districts across the country are currently faced with unprecedented shortages of food and packaging materials, massive delays or cancellations of deliveries, and department labor shortages. To date, these issues have been fairly limited in our district, with there being three instances where suppliers did not fulfill orders so far this year, which was a very rare occurrence prior to this year.
These supply issues are occurring throughout the country and are especially challenging for school systems, due to the number of meals we serve and the nutrition standards we follow. The ability of school districts to offer free meals and receive federal reimbursement has likely contributed to this shortage, as meal participation rates are up as a result.
All of this means that we may need to make quick substitutions to our menu(s) based upon what we are able to acquire. We know that this affects students, and we are doing our best to provide updates about menu changes when possible as soon as we identify an issue. Again, so far this is fairly limited, but we wanted to communicate this to folks now since we have noticed it seems to become more prevalent.
Please know that our priority in foodservice continues to be providing healthy, nutritious, and appetizing meals for your children. Our kitchen staff enjoys seeing them every day and appreciate your support and patience as we continue to offer meals at no charge for all students. The good news is that free breakfast and lunch will continue throughout the school year, so please stick with us while we face yet another challenge. Your participation helps our program stay strong, and we look forward to serving you!
Bob Conry, Director of Finance and Operations
508-869-2837 ext. 1103
Boylston Elementary School
What a Week!
It has been a heck of a week around here. It is hard when we are not all together and this week we were without too many of our kids. There were lots of emails and communications, lots of protocols, and doctor's notes. We found ourselves short-staffed and I was forced to step away from the laptop and cover a 1st-grade recess duty. Thirty minutes of "look at this Mr. Thompson," some epic Gaga ball, and the craziest soccer I have seen in a long time is just what I needed. It put everything into perspective.
While many of us adults seemingly have the weight of the world on our shoulders, we can't have that trickle down to the children. They are excited to be here. The kids who are home are excited to be back. This is how it should be. Meanwhile, feeling the heaviness of the pandemic? Let me recommend you spend 30 minutes on the playground with your student.
With so many students out of the building this week, the PTO has decided to extend the collection period of their fundraiser. I think this is a great idea!
The first turn-in date is 10/6 with tie cutting on the 7th.
Turn in two is 10/12 with the tie cutting on the 14th.
The final collection is 10/19 with the last cut on the 21st.
PD Day Next Week-No School
I wanted to put in a reminder this year regarding Tahanto's Parent-Teacher Conferences. Next Thursday, Tahanto will have a half-day for their conferences however we will have a full day of school. Every year this causes confusion. If you take nothing else away from this please take this, we have a full day of school on Thursday followed by no school on Friday due to Staff Professional Development.
COVID Testing Info
At the bottom of this week's blog, I have reposted my COVID Close Contact FAQ in case people have lost track of the email or want to refer back at a later date. Since I originally shared it, a family shared with me that Walgreens is providing drive-thru PCR testing free for kids 3+. The fire department continues to offer rapid antigen tests as well.
Also please remember we should be monitoring our students for symptoms every day. If they are deemed a close contact, they should be monitored even closer for two weeks following the point of contact.
The Week Ahead:
1st Fundraiser Collection
Full-Day of School at BES
No School - PD day
Hello BES Families,
There have been a lot of questions over the weekend, and I want to take some time to share the information I have at hand with all of you. Rather than wait for a Friday blog I thought it was prudent to send out information now. Thank you to everyone that reached out to me directly for clarification. It helps me know what the questions and concerns are in the community so I can communicate answers as best as I can.
Q: Why can some people take the rapid antigen test while others are required to take a PCR?
A: Great question! This is not a BES rule, it comes from DESE. The antigen test, while a great tool, is not as reliable as the PCR test. We accept the antigen test (like the one administered by the fire department) when we are dealing with asymptomatic (protocol B) individuals. Once someone becomes symptomatic (protocol C - moderate symptom or multiple minor ones) we require a PCR. It is important to note that the take-home antigen tests are not accepted.
Q: My child had a sore throat and was allowed to take a rapid antigen test. Why?
A: One symptom does not make an individual symptomatic. To be classified as symptomatic you need a combination of mild symptoms. However, if your child has a fever over 100, difficulty breathing, loss of taste/smell, or muscle aches they are not required to be in combination. Any of these symptoms alone make the individual symptomatic.
Q: How can you make unilateral quarantines?
A: We don't. While the guidance from the state around how classrooms can be set up has changed, the rules around contact tracing have not. When looking at a class (particularly at the elementary level) it is rare that we can say two individuals haven't been within 3 feet of each other for 15 minutes over the course of the day. We do look at it, and if we can find a case where it is clear they have not met that close contact threshold, they are not required to quarantine. Similarly, we look at all school events including after-school activities.
To illustrate this, imagine yourself in an elementary class where you are working on a group project, you are spread out on the floor along a banner illustrating. The group works together for 30 minutes and then transitions back to their typical seats where they are sitting with a separate group of students. Now the teacher assigns buddy work. They use their pairing up system and students move across the room to team up for a 15-minute writing response. This type of teaching approach is continued 3 to 4 more times over the course of a school day. When you look at the lower grades it is even less likely, as they spend significant time on the rug for instruction. The discussion was, is it better for kids to be able to interact and learn in the ways we have found the most successful over the years? The decision at the time was yes. As we move through this phase of the pandemic this may be reevaluated. However, the ability to Test and Stay may also impact this.
Q: Should we be canceling sports?
A: This is not a school decision and should be determined by the youth program directors of each sport. However, students that are quarantining either due to symptoms or as close contacts should not be participating. You can see the CDC recommendations here.
Q: Why isn't there a fully remote option for students while in quarantine?
A: DESE has ruled that remote learning does not count as Time On Learning and has steered districts away from it. I know the teachers are working diligently on materials to keep students engaged until they can return. They have similar feelings as you and I about students missing time. It is something no one wants. That being said, if a student has to quarantine for 14 days, they do become eligible for home hospital tutoring. I have been able to provide this once already and would eagerly do so again. It requires a doctor's note. The state is currently presenting remote options that we are evaluating.
Q: Why aren't we doing the Test and Stay protocol right now?
A: We all wish we were. There are several hurdles we have been trying to work through to get this program off the ground. That all being said, we did announce at the first school committee of the year that we were targeting October 1st to have it up and running. Our nurses have been in contact with nurses from a handful of districts that already have the program running. As with anything involving state bureaucracy, there have been snags. The BinaxNow tests from MA state arrived after the scheduled training competency, so the nurses need to have time to reschedule the mandatory training. Working with the state to gain access to the documentation system has also been problematic. Fingers crossed that it is resolved this week. Finding time for our 3 district school nurses to do much of the work has been difficult. Nurses are in short supply right now and many of them are compelled to work in the hospital. Trying to get someone to support the nurse's office so other things can be accomplished has been a goal since the summer. Thank you to all the medical professionals that responded to our cry for help. We do have a list of people willing to help, we just need to determine the best way to utilize them. Thank you also to Chief Flanagan who has lent support and guidance through the process. For every district you can find that has the program up and running, there are ten that are still working through it. We will get there.
Q: Why are you being overly careful with this?
A: Truthfully, I'm following the rules. I don't make them. DESE does. And in some cases, it is the CDC. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I do not. Hopefully, no one can ever tell the difference between the ones I agree with and the ones I don't. However, when it comes to children, health and safety, I will always take the cautious route. While I am sure some are willing to take risks others aren't, my responsibility is to every child in the building and it is a huge responsibility. I know the medically fragile students and their families. I know this virus has not impacted many medically, however, I also know who it has affected and who has suffered through it. I know who has ended up in the hospital and who sailed through unscathed. It is a burden and responsibility and one I do not take lightly. I will always place the safety of your children at the heart of any decision I make.
Ace Thompson, Principal
BES Office: 508-869-2200
Berlin Memorial School
SOAR T-Shirts - Last Call!
For several years now we have supported our school spirit efforts with t-shirt Tuesdays - students wear their SOAR t-shirts, with colors assigned to grade levels. It’s a little thing but it reminds us that we are all part of the BMS community. The shirts are $12.50 - we sell them at cost. The ordering window for SOAR t-shirts closes tonight - the last call to get your orders in. You can follow this link, or find the same information on our website.
Berlin Family Entertainment Event - Tonight
One of the many events canceled due to COVID last year was a family event at 1870 Town Hall. That event has been rescheduled to tonight, Friday, October 1st. To allow for spacing, the location has been changed to the BMS gym. Free to all residents, it looks like it will be a great time!
Want more information? Click here.
A Fall Surprise!
I got to school the other morning and found that the entrances to our school had been decorated by some very generous parents. It speaks to what a great community we have here in Berlin! Our Student Council members are taking care of watering the mums so that we can enjoy them all month. Thanks to all our autumn helpers for this pleasant surprise!
Dates to remember...
Friday, October 8 - PD Day - No school for kids
Monday, October 11 - No school for anyone!
Friday, October 29 - Costume Parade at BMS
John Campbell, Principal
BMS Office: 978-838-2417
This is the last call for SOAR Tee Shirts. You can follow this link, or find the same information on our website.
Fall Decoration Surprise!
Our school had been decorated by some very generous parents.
Family Entertainment Night at BMS!
Sponsored by 1870 Town Hall. Friday, October 1st in the BMS gym. Free to all residents.
Tahanto Regional Middle/High School
Tahanto Open House is October 7th
Click HERE for all of the information
Just a reminder that if your child is not feeling well, please keep them home and notify the nurse
BBRSD COVID-19 Test and Stay Program
Below please find two very important forms regarding BBRSD's COVID-19 Test and Stay program. Please note that for your child to participate in the Test and Stay program a student consent form MUST be filled out and signed by a parent/guardian. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Letter regarding Test and Stay COVID-19 Program
2. Student Consent Form
October 2nd: High School Homecoming Grade 9-12
Tahanto High School's Homecoming Dance Saturday, October 2 from 6:00-9:00 pm. Tickets will be sold for $10 ahead of time at lunch or $12 at the door. Students will need to sign a COVID-19 screening form when they arrive, and no outside guests will be allowed. Masks while dancing outside are not required, but need to be worn if going inside to warm up or use bathrooms. Snacks and drinks will be available for purchase. Homecoming dates/rules may change due to inclement weather or changing DPH guidance. In the event that it needs to be rescheduled due to the weather forecast, announcements will be made Friday before leaving school. In the event of changing DPH guidance around outdoor school events, the announcement for any changes will be made as soon as possible.
October 6th: 6:30 pm Athletic Booster Club Meeting
October 7th: Early Dismissal/Tahanto Open House
Click HERE for specific information
October 8th: No School/PD Day
October 11th: No School
October 14th: Midterm grades updated in PowerSchool
October 16th Booster Club Bottle and Can Drive 9-12 am
Important deadlines are fast approaching for Senior Yearbook Photo’s, wills, etc. Click below for information.
SENIOR PORTRAIT: Senior Portrait deadline is October 19, 2021. There are 2 ways to submit senior photos and MUST select ONLY 1 OPTION.
Please submit your portraits to email@example.com and be sure to put your FULL NAME along with Senior Photo as the subject line. Your photo MUST BE in Portrait view as a JPG with a minimum resolution of 300 dpi and maximum file size of 20MB and should be 2 x3 in size.
Upload senior photo: https://yearbookforever.com
Click community upload
Enter access code: yearbook22
Overall dimensions of a photo should be roughly 2“x 3“ in 500 kB or greater for resolution
Due on or before October 19, 2021
YOU MUST ONLY CHOOSE 1 OPTION.
If you do not submit a portrait by October 19, 2021, your school picture taken by Grynn and Barrett will be printed in the yearbook.
School districts must take attendance for every student, every period. If your child is absent from school please follow the procedures below:
Call (508)869-2333 and Press option 1 to report your child absent. If your child is absent due to a medical appt. (doctor or dentist) please bring a note to the main office from the doctor’s office the next day your child is at Tahanto.
If your child is going to be late for school please still call the above number and make us aware of this.
Each student has 3 parental excusals that can be used during each semester for absences that are not subject to a doctor’s visit. To use parental excusal please write a note and have your child bring the note to the main office on the next day your child is in person at Tahanto.
If your child is being dismissed from school, a written dismissal note must be handed in to the main office by 8:00 a.m. Telephone dismissals will not be accepted.
If we do not receive a call notifying us of the absence, the secretaries in the main office will be contacting parents/guardians.
If you need further clarification or need to ask a question specific to your child’s attendance, please do not hesitate to contact Kathleen Angiulo at (508)869-2333 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday, September 25th the varsity WB/Tahanto football team defeated Blackstone Valley Tech 13-8. Tahanto student Luke Foley played a big role with a key defensive turnover at the end of the game to seal the victory. The two touchdowns for the Lions were scored by Tahanto’s Bobby Humphrey and Jonathan Ruas. Currently, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette ranks the Lions number 2 for small schools in central Mass football. Come watch the Lions as they take on Clinton at home in WB tonight - Friday, October 1st at 7:00 PM!
Please join the Tahanto Athletics Booster Club for their monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 6th at 6:30 pm in the teachers’ lounge located by the green room in the back of the cafeteria.
Save your cans for the Bottle and Can Drive at Tahanto from 9 am to 12 pm on Saturday, October 16th. Come support the Booster Club!
It’s time for the Tahanto Athletic Booster Club’s Annual Butter Braid and Cookie Dough Fundraiser! Help the Booster Club provide support to Tahanto Athletics!
The Butter Braid and Cookie Dough Fundraiser will run from 9/13/2021 to 10/15/2021. All forms need to be brought into the Main Office by 10/15/2021. Pick up will be on 10/25/2021, in front of Tahanto, after school. The sports team that sells the most Butter Braids and Cookie Dough will win a team pizza party sponsored by the Booster Club. The top 5 salespeople will get Tahanto swag with the top earner winning a Stags sweatshirt.
Important information regarding athletic transportation
Due to the bus driver shortage, NRT has informed us that they may have issues supplying buses to some of our games.
They will not know for sure until they organize the routes for any given week. Typically the routes for the following week are set by Friday. If there are issues for a given week, we will be as creative as possible to work through them, however, it could result in certain sports teams needing later starting times, or PPD of games to later in the season. We will do our best to deal with these situations.
For the latest information regarding fall athletics please click on the link below
Tahanto Regional High School
1001 Main Street
Boylston, MA 01505
Diane Tucceri, Principal
Sally Stukuls, Assistant Principal
Tahanto Office: 508-869-2333