September 10, 2021
Dear Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Families,
I have a lot of updates for you this week, so here's what's happening:
* COVID-19 pool testing
* Free breakfast and lunch this year
* BSE welcomes Joseph Moynihan, new vice principal
* MTRS co-taught classes a pillar of the Trailblazer Model
* School Spotlights - Back to School!
* SEPAC to meet on Sept. 15
* Community Corner: Cal Ripken clinic
COVID-19 pool testing
Last week I shared a proposed update to include pool testing to our district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies which was discussed and approved at the school committee meeting on Sept. 7. The topic will be up for discussion at the Hawlemont School Committee meeting on Monday, September 13.
After discussing with our Nurse Leader Donna Weber, FRCOG health agent Randy Crochier, and COVID-19 School Planning Task Force at length, pool testing has been added as an additional mitigation strategy to continue to help keep our school community healthy and safe during this pandemic. Thanks to our entire community’s efforts to follow mitigation strategies, including our FAB FIVE (vaccination; wearing masks; frequent hand-washing; physical distancing; and staying home when unwell) throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 caseloads in Franklin County remain low. ALL information can be found on the district’s COVID-19 Information page at www.mtrsd.org/covid-19-information OR by clicking on the “Helpful Links” drop-down from any of the school websites.
Abbott-BinaxNOW and Surveillance “Pool” Testing Program
With the arrival of the more highly contagious Delta variant, the Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s position on pool testing has changed since last spring. This is due to the significant increase in transmissibility of the Delta variant, as well as the likelihood of vaccinated individuals being asymptomatic should they get COVID-19. In order to keep our school community healthy and safe, the COVID-19 School Planning Task Force and Administration determined pool testing would be another mitigation strategy to complement the FAB FIVE: vaccination; mask wearing; washing hands frequently; physical distancing; and staying home when unwell. MTRSD has been accepted into the state’s COVID-19 testing program including BinaxNOW and weekly surveillance “pool” testing program. The program is funded by the state at no cost to the District.
The testing program will begin in late September once the District receives all necessary supplies. To implement the testing program, the following protocols were discussed and approved by the Mohawk Trail School Committee on September 8, 2021.
Under the pool testing program:
Any MTRSD student or staff member may voluntarily elect to be tested weekly for COVID-19 using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pooled testing procedures outlined below. A PCR test is a diagnostic test that determines if you are infected with COVID-19 by analyzing a sample to see if it contains genetic material from the virus.
Any MTRSD student or adult involved with district before- and after school programs, athletics, or extracurricular programming will be required to participate in the weekly testing program.
Pool testing will be administered in school buildings. Under the surveillance pool testing protocol, MTRSD school nurses will administer the tests, which involve collecting anterior (shallow) nasal swab samples from a group (or “pool”) of 6-10 individuals. These samples will be combined and sent to Cambridge Innovations Center Health (CIC), a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) contractor, to conduct the lab analysis. The PCR test results will be available for review by the District Nurse Leader within 24-48 hours.
The Results: What Happens Next?
If a pooled sample generates a positive result, each individual in the pool will have a second anterior nasal swab and a BinaxNOW test performed at the school.
– If results from the second individual test are negative, the individual will continue to attend class or regular duties without any limitations.
– If results from the second test are positive and the individual is a student, the student’s caregiver will be notified of the need for immediate pick-up.
– If results from the second test are positive and the individual is a member of our district staff, the employee will be notified immediately and asked to leave the school building.
**The District Nurse Leader/COVID-19 nurse and/or the local Board of Health will contact the caregiver/individual to review isolation requirements for the positive person per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and DESE policies.**
When a positive case is identified, contact tracing begins immediately to determine those deemed a “close contact.” Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within six-feet of a COVID-19 positive person while indoors for a cumulative of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
All close contacts who were exposed within the school community (at school, on a bus, etc.) are able to participate in the “TEST and STAY” protocols.
What is “Test and Stay?”
The Test and Stay program allows those who are identified as a “close contact” and exposed within the school community (students, staff, coaches) to test immediately for COVID-19 using the BinaxNOW antigen test. Testing is conducted by the school nurse upon their arrival at school each day for one week (7 consecutive days). BinaxNOW test results are available within 15 minutes.
If the person deemed as a close contact remains asymptomatic and continues to test negative daily, they may continue performing and participating in regular school activities. This allows for a safe way to monitor close contacts and increase time in the classroom.
If you have any questions surrounding the process, procedure, or need additional information, please reach out to our district Nurse Leader Donna Weber at email@example.com or Superintendent Sheryl Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TO SIGN UP ONLINE: https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma?district
Select: Consent Now → Mohawk Trail → (select your school)
For staff, coaches, or anyone over 18 years of age, please select “Sign consent form for yourself.”
For caregivers who need to give consent for their child/ren, please select “Sign consent form for a minor.”
If you are unable to complete the online sign-up/consent, please contact Donna Weber for a paper copy to complete.
This link will direct you to the online sign-up page. Please see instructions above.
Click here to visit the district's COVID-19 information page which includes the district's data dashboard; links to the virtual town hall presentation materials and video broadcast; and more!
Free breakfast and lunch this year
What does this mean?
Your child can participate in a healthy breakfast and lunch at school every day at no cost to you.
I'm eligible for free and reduced lunches. Does this mean I don't have to complete forms?
While food is provided at no cost to any student, it is still very important to complete the free and reduced lunch forms if you are eligible. This information helps our schools to qualify for additional benefits and funding.
In addition to completing the free and reduced lunch applications, we also encourage families to apply for SNAP benefits, which provides eligible families with monthly cash benefits to purchase groceries. To learn more and apply, please visit: www.startwithsnap.org or call the Project Bread Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333.
Hard copies of this information and applications were sent home with your child this week. If you have any questions, please reach out to our district's food service co-directors, Debbie Plante or Tammy Wheeler.
Buckland-Shelburne Elementary Welcomes New Vice Principal
Buckland, Mass.—While September marked the official kick-off to the academic school year, it’s been two months since Buckland-Shelburne Elementary (BSE) School’s new vice principal Joseph Moynihan and his trademark suspenders and smile made their mark as the school’s new vice principal.
Moynihan, of Westfield, began work at BSE on July 1, taking over the role of vice principal as Hayley Gilmore assumed her role as principal following the retirement of Joanne Giguere. Moynihan, a U.S. Navy veteran, joins the district with 22 years of teaching experience under his belt and a life-long commitment to education.
A graduate of the former Holyoke Catholic High School, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and American International College, Moynihan’s appreciation for education began at home. His father, a former director of personnel for a local college, drilled-home the importance of education with his children; something Moynihan says helped pave his career path.
Moynihan began his career in college admissions, helping to guide students along their path in higher education. While he enjoyed the work, he felt a strong pull throughout the years to go back to school himself. After six years working in admissions, he finally made the decision to pursue his degree in elementary education and spent the next 22 years working as an educator at Norris Elementary School in Southampton.
“I knew right away where I wanted to be,” said Moynihan. “Life is precious and every day is so important. I felt it was my duty--it was my job--to help others feel good about themselves.”
Inspired by his desire to help others, Moynihan’s contributions to education were not unnoticed. He has been honored as a Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year nominee and Massachusetts Teacher of the Year nominee.
After numerous years in the classroom, Moynihan started thinking about next steps for his career and decided to pursue his administrators license. He received his certificate from the Collaborative for Educational Services in 2020.
Making the transition from classroom educator to administrator has been a natural progression for Moynihan and allows him to continue to make a difference even out of the classroom, helping to support educators and our students, albeit in a different role.
“I poured my heart and soul into obtaining my certification,” said Moynihan. “And then COVID-19 hit and I decided to table pursuing a position (in administration) for a year.”
In doing so, this allowed Moynihan to experience the challenges of teaching during a pandemic--learning how to teach remotely, via hybrid, and re-adjusting to classroom life post shut-downs. Learning how to use technology; engage students while not being in the same physical space; and repeating, “You need to unmute,” became second-nature to him.
“I experienced first-hand what our educators did (as teachers), which gives me the ability to understand what they need and how I can assist them,” said Moynihan. “It gives me the opportunity to really reflect and understand what our teachers need in the classroom.”
Since joining the BSE team, Moynihan said he has appreciated the community’s kindness and their willingness to share their own stories about going to school at BSE.
“All the people in this community who went here, or send their kids here now, they just have this enormous sense of pride in the school. I’ve truly landed in such a wonderful place,” he said.
Moynihan and his family currently live in Westfield, but hope to relocate to the area soon. His daughter will join him at BSE this fall as a sixth grader.
“I’m really looking forward to helping our staff pursue their own dreams; bringing the community in; and re-establishing relationships,” said Moyihan. “It’s a dream to be able to do this work and I’m excited to be at BSE.”
MTRS co-taught classes a pillar of the Trailblazer Model
Additionally, co-taught classes allow for teacher collaboration in planning, instruction, and assessment and the ability to merge disciplines to provide students with real-world connections and experiences.
Below, we spotted some of our co-teaching educators in action at this week! We're excited to see our students and staff back in the classroom, blazing their trails through this new academic year!
MTRS Sports Fans: New website for game schedules!
First Day - welcoming outside!
Beautiful days offer an opportunity for lunch outside.
MTRS 7th graders create fun name tags to introduce themselves.
MTRS Welcome & Registration Days
Our foyer was buzzing with students and families during our welcome and registration days at the end of August.
MTRS Class of 2027 Race to Middle School
Students in the Class of '27 had an opportunity to connect before the start of the school year at the Race to Middle School event held during the MTRS welcome/registration night on Aug. 27.
MTRS School Counselor Brian Cipoletta, student Alex Lilly, and College and Career Counselor Sara Neuenschwander greet students and families during our welcome/registration days. Students and families were able to complete essential paperwork, take tours of the building, learn how to use the Aspen portal, and ask questions prior to the start of the school year.
MTRS Welcome & Registration Days
MTRS Class of 2027 Race to Middle School
SEPAC to meet on Sept. 15
The Mohawk Trail SEPAC was established by Tammy Lowell and other interested parties with the hope of engaging and supporting district families with students with disabilities. The group began meeting this spring and has held three meetings; the meeting mInutes, bylaws, agendas and more can be found in the PUBLIC SEPAC folder which can be viewed HERE.
From SEPAC member Tammy Lowell:
We are trying to reach our families and get the word out. Our plan moving forward is to engage with parents/families both during our Pubic meetings and private 'coffee' chats.
- Official Mohawk Trail SEPAC Facebook Page: @mohawktrailsepac
- Newsletters are emailed were also included with all 225 Parent IEP/504 Rights notification letters.
- We post monthly meeting notices on the district calendar.
- Public Meetings will be held the 3rd Wednesday of the month. As of now they are via zoom, but we are hopeful that we can meet in person as well in the very near future and still maintain the zoom option.
Please consider attending our Public meetings! You can view the next meeting info here (or click the button below).
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out!
Community Corner: FREE Cal Ripken Clinic for 5-7th Graders
The West County Baseball Association is offering a FREE clinic for Cal Ripken-aged youngsters, on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. starting at the Mohawk Trail Regional School (MTRS) varsity baseball field.
This clinic will be run by Mantle and Koufax coaches, as well as current and former players of the West County system. This clinic will cover:
- Fielding Techniques
- Good Throwing Mechanics
- General Baseball Skills
This clinic is offered to those West County students currently in 5th, 6th and 7th grades (all schools/towns welcome).
Participants should bring their respective equipment (Bat, Glove, Catchers Gear, Etc.), as well as their own full water bottle and a baseball hat. Baseball pants are not mandatory, however may be a good idea as well as cleats. No sign up is required.
For more information, please contact:
Tucker Jenkins (email@example.com) – President, West County Baseball
John Finck – Vice President, West County Baseball
**This is not a school sponsored event.