Amesbury Public Schools Update

From the Office of the Superintendent - May 4, 2021

COVID Policy Revisions

Dear Amesbury Families,

I realize that this newsletter comes quickly on the heels of the one that I sent last week, but this is an important change to our current policy and the way we do business. I wanted to make sure that I did my best to explain the change itself and why it is important for us.


In his April 20, 2021 Weekly Update, Commissioner Riley provided updated guidance on quarantine for close contacts. This update to the quarantine guidance for close contacts was approved by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services after consultation with the Governor’s Medical Advisory Board on COVID-19 and other medical advisors.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with Fire Chief Berkenbush (Acting Director of Public Health), Rita O'Neill (APS Nurse Leader) and our two public health nurses, Diane Dardeno and Tina LaCourse, to discuss this update and determine its impact on our policy.


Here is the BIG change:


Close contacts who were exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual in the classroom or on the bus while both individuals were masked DO NOT have to quarantine unless they were within 3 feet of distance of the COVID-19 positive individual for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. This does not apply if someone was identified as a close contact outside of the classroom or bus (e.g., in sports, extra-curriculars, lunch, etc.) or if masks are not worn by both persons at the time of the exposure. All other close contacts must follow the standard protocol for when a close contact may return to school.


In short, this guidance continues to identify a close contact as someone who has been closer than 6' feet for at least 15 minutes in a 24 hour period. This has not changed. What has changed in this guidance is that those close contacts between 3 and 6 feet, who were fully masked, ON A BUS OR IN A CLASSROOM ONLY, are not required to quarantine. In all other scenarios, a close contact will need to quarantine. All close contacts, using the less than 6’ distance for at least 15 minutes in a 24-hour period will continue to be notified. They will be encouraged, but not required, to get a test on the fifth day after exposure to the positive case. In this scenario alone, families who choose to have their child tested, do not have to quarantine while waiting for the results, UNLESS they have COVID-19 like symptoms.


Last night, I presented this change to the School Committee and they agreed to support and implement this change.


In addition, the School Committee also approved a change to the minimum length of quarantine for identified close contacts. Up to this point, close contacts, whether staff or students, have been required to quarantine for a minimum period of ten days with a return on Day 11, provided they did not have any COVID-19 like symptoms. A CDC approved shorter quarantine period has always existed as an option. At this time, with the number of people who are fully vaccinated increasing and the number of cases going down, we have adopted the minimum quarantine period.


Amesbury Public Schools will now follow the "7 Day Quarantine and with a Return on Day 8" quarantine length as our default option. This option requires that identified close contacts MUST have a negative test result from a test administered on the fifth day or later after exposure, provide us with a copy of that negative result (only actual test results will be accepted), and have no COVID-19 like symptoms. This change applies to both students and staff. Of course, a family/individual has the right to quarantine for 10 or 14 days based on their wishes and symptoms.


These two changes are important steps for us in our return to full in-person learning. I strongly believe that these changes will support our students’ mental health and academic performance. I realize that for some families this will be a very welcome change and for others, maybe not. Please reach out to our school nurses for clarification as they are the best resources that we have in this area. Of course, you can always reach out to me as well at elizabeth.mcandrews@amesburyma.org.


I have included access to additional resources below.


Sincerely,


Elizabeth McAndrews

Acting Superintendent


The full guidance is posted on the COVID-19 guidance page and available for download.


As a reminder, DPH defines close contact as:


  • Being within 6 feet of a COVID-19 case (someone who has tested positive) for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. Multiple brief or transitory interactions (less than a minute) throughout the day are unlikely to result in 15 minutes of cumulative contact and do not meet the definition of close contact. Being in the same room as an individual if you are consistently separated by 6 feet of distance does not meet the definition of a close contact.

  • Close contact can occur while being with, caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case, OR

  • Having direct physical contact with the person (e.g. hugging or kissing), OR

  • Sharing eating or drinking utensils, OR

  • Having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on) while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment.