Sisters and Brothers,
Our weekly Joint Stakeholder Coronavirus Response Team just concluded. An additional 2 students have tested positive from 11/12 to 11/18 and were in school during their infectious period. 12 other new positive cases were not in school during their infectious period. 3 additional staff members tested positive and had been in school during the 7 days previous, while 2 others are now on quarantine as close contacts. This brings the total number of staff members currently on quarantine to 43 close contacts and 9 positive cases. In the last 14 days, there have been 256 new cases, the highest number to date. Another record average daily incidence rate has been set at 27.7 per 100,000 while Haverhill’s percent positivity rate is not at 3.93% Obviously, these numbers are incredibly concerning.
After reviewing the latest numbers, the JSCRT had an earnest discussion about the implications for our District. In addition to concerns related to the rising spread of the coronavirus and staffing issues related to high numbers of educators out on quarantine, the physical condition of the buildings and their ability to function throughout the winter may also play a factor in how long we can continue in-person learning. For these reasons, the School Committee has scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday night to hear from members of our JSCRT and Dr. Marotta on the work we’ve done thus far and the Superintendent’s recommendations going forward. A consensus was also reached regarding the need for DESE and Governor Baker to provide universal surveillance testing for schools to be able to reopen and stay open this winter. I took the opportunity to make a pitch to the administration to join us in declaring “no confidence” in Commissioner Riley and DESE, but that remains a bridge too far at this point in time (can’t blame a guy for trying).
While no decision has been made to move to remote learning (that power ultimately rests with the School Committee) the JSCRT discussed a number of possible scenarios for making a safe, data-driven return to in-person learning should the School Committee choose to make the transition for a period of time following Thanksgiving. Dr. Marotta recently sent a letter to all staff indicating that the district has been spread so thin as it is, that it may become impossible to keep schools open to students throughout the holiday season, due in particular to stringent new guidelines on interstate travel recently announced by Governor Baker which require either a 14-day quarantine or a negative test result within 72 hours of returning to the state. I encourage all members who may be planning an out-of-state trip this Thanksgiving to complete the Superintendent’s travel survey. You DO NOT have to give any identifying information (email addresses are not collected) if you are not comfortable doing so. This data may be presented to the School Committee on Monday as part of any recommendation Dr. Marotta might make.
There won’t be a JSCRT meeting next Thursday due to Thanksgiving, but I will do my best to get the latest numbers to you once they are available.
Anthony J. Parolisi
Haverhill Education Association