December 22, 2021
The winter break is almost upon us and we will say goodbye to 2021. I am grateful for the tremendous work that has taken place to keep our schools open and for the efforts made to create strong, connected, and vibrant communities. Of course, the arrival of another COVID variant has increased anxiety once again, but I am hopeful you and your family will have a restful and relaxing time away from school over the next week.
We remain focused on adapting our health and safety protocols as COVID continues to evolve. Please know that we are working closely with our Medical Advisory Group and Newton Health and Human Services to identify any changes they might deem necessary as a result of the new variant. We will be sharing updated information regarding COVID practices and protocols with you prior to the return to school on January 3, 2022.
In the meantime, I wish you a healthy, restful and joyous holiday break.
Holiday Travel and Gatherings - A Message from Newton HHS
The holiday break is a few days away! We hope you enjoy a happy and healthy holiday and would like to remind you that it’s important to continue to take precautions against getting or spreading COVID-19. Wearing a face covering, avoiding crowds, opening windows to increase air circulation, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster if you are eligible, are the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting seriously ill. All people age 5 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine and all people age 16 and older are eligible for a booster following the recommended time after the initial vaccine series. You can find appointments statewide at vaxfinder.mass.gov.
If you don’t feel well stay home and get tested for COVID-19, even if you have mild symptoms, and even if you are fully vaccinated. As a reminder, children ages 5-11 who have recently gotten a COVID-19 vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated until 2 weeks after their second dose. Children ages 16 & 17 are now eligible for a booster vaccine 6 months after their second dose.
Traveling for the holiday? While the Massachusetts Department of Public Health does not have specific requirements for travel, travel does increase possible exposure to COVID-19 from new people and new environments. It is advisable to check local transmission rates and travel guidance for your destination in advance as the CDC has recently updated guidance for international travel.
Returning to School After Winter Break
Looking ahead to 2022, we want to ensure a safe and healthy return to school on January 3. It is crucial that students do not return to school if they have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are mild. Students who are not feeling well should be evaluated by their health care provider and get tested for COVID-19.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 should remain at home until their isolation period is complete (a minimum of 10 days from symptom onset or the date of the test if there are no symptoms). As much as possible, they should separate from others in the household. If your child tests positive in another state or with an at-home test, please notify your school nurse.
Symptomatic students who receive a negative PCR test result for COVID-19 or have an alternative diagnosis from a medical professional may return to school once they have an improvement in symptoms and been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Close contacts from a COVID-19 exposure over the school break do not qualify for the Test-and-Stay program. The only exception is if the exposure is during an NPS activity. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated (at least two weeks since their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or their one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine) are not required to quarantine or test following an exposure. If you choose to test, please follow state guidance for the appropriate time to get tested. Close contacts who are unvaccinated should quarantine -read detailed guidance here.
COVID Testing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about testing:
Should I get tested?
Anyone who is feeling even mild symptoms should stay home, talk with their healthcare provider, and get tested. Based on guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, testing is not required for people who are fully vaccinated close contacts who don’t have symptoms. If you choose to get tested following an exposure (day 0), you should get tested no sooner than day 3 and ideally around day 5. People who are close contacts with symptoms should stay home and get tested, regardless of the number of days since exposure.
Which test should I get?
PCR tests are the gold standard for diagnosing a current COVID-19 infection, but home antigen tests can be useful in certain circumstances because they are generally less expensive, available in pharmacy/retail locations, and you can get the results quicker than laboratory-based PCR tests. Wondering when to use a home test and how to interpret the results? Click here for a guide.
Where can I get tested?
A list of testing sites across the state, including Newton, can be found at mass.gov/gettested. Plug in a zip code and you can filter by distance, cost of the test, type of test, and more under Advanced Filters. CIC Health continues to run a PCR testing site at Riverside in Newton. Free home PCR testing is available to all eligible Massachusetts adults. Kits are reserved for adults (18+) who live or work in a congregate setting, are experiencing symptoms, have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or who have otherwise been recommended for testing. Visit the Pixel by LabCorp for Massachusetts webpage for details, and to request a test kit.
Traveling internationally this holiday?
Travel requirements have changed so be sure to check the CDC’s website for requirements for testing.
Helping Students Care for their NPS Chromebook
One of the challenges of a 1:1 device model is managing device repairs. During the month of November through the middle of December we have seen over 420 1:1 Chromebooks come through for repairs at the Middle and High Schools. Below are the top categories of damage reported:
133 with cracked screens
128 with malfunctioning Trackpads/Keyboards
31 would on longer turn on
25 with malfunctioning screens
21 with damaged charging ports
While not all damage is user-caused, the best way to help manage all the device repairs is by preventing damage in the first place. In school, teachers help students navigate the intricacies of Chromebook care by both proactively educating students and addressing issues as they see them.
The IT and Library Services Department would also like to ask all families to talk to help out by reinforcing messages at home. Here is a poster with some common care tips you can review with your children.
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:
A Message from the Newton Schools Foundation
Every year, we are grateful for the support of Newton Schools Foundation (NSF.) It is an organization that supports meaningful programs in our schools and provides many outstanding opportunities for our students and staff.
Grants from NSF fund the following program areas:
Grants that allow teachers to try new approaches in the classroom
Programs that help students achieve their full potential by addressing inequities associated with race, income level, or social identity
Find out more about the Newton Schools Foundation Annual Appeal here: Newton Schools Foundation Annual Appeal (link.)
Winter weather is upon us as we expect a bit of snow this week! Here is a quick reminder of our snow day notification procedures.
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 (link)
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.
School Calendar for the 2022-23 School Year
News from our Schools!
Newton South Jazz Ensemble
Saturday, December 11 was the first field trip since March 2020 for the NSHS Jazz Ensemble. We joined fellow Essentially Ellington Finalist Bands Foxboro HS and Hall HS (West Hartford, CT) for the first of two Jazz Exchanges. Saturday featured 7 clinicians who worked with the bands on the music of Duke Ellington along with the premier of a new piece commissioned for this event; a New Orleans style piece called "Sweet Tooth" by pianist Jen Allen. We look forward to part two which will take place in Newton on April 30!
Lappin Institute Partnership with Newton North High School
North student Rachel helped connect the Lappin Foundation with the Newton North History Department to lead a series of workshops for students on the Holocaust. Debbie Coltin from the Lappin Foundation has worked with students during WIN block and has covered topics such as the history of the Holocaust and the importance of student upstanders to hate and bigotry.
Bigelow Middle Author Visit - Christine Day
On December 17th, 6th graders at Bigelow Middle School had the opportunity to meet and talk with author Christine Day! Day is the author of the coming-of-age novel, I Can Make This Promise, which is the anchor text for the 6th grade unit focusing on culture and identity. In her debut middle grade novel—inspired by her family’s history—Christine Day tells the story of a girl who uncovers her family’s secrets—and finds her own Native American identity. Students were able to personally ask questions and receive catered responses from Day about current and upcoming projects, her inspirations, creative writing in general, and her personal life and culture. Having her visit was an enriching experience that both teachers and students will not soon forget.
Brown Middle Annual Gift Drive
Brown Middle School students spent time last week wrapping presents for residents at the Brookview House in Dorchester. Brookview House is a multi-service nonprofit organization for women, children and youth experiencing homelessness that develops safe, affordable housing with support services and programs on site. This is an annual event that truly brings the community together. Students brought the gifts down to the lobby yesterday and filled a whole truck!