SALEM – School leaders are calling on all students and staff to wear masks to start the next school year 2021-22.
The school committee will hold a special meeting on Monday August 9 at 4 p.m. to review the health and safety protocols for the fall and with it the reopening of the school.
The district released a summary Thursday afternoon exploring the recommendations made on Monday evening. The statement begins with a warning: “The Delta variant is much more contagious,” wrote Superintendent Steve Zrike. “For every person who gets sick, they are more likely to spread it.”
“The goal of this recommendation is to ensure the safe opening of schools in September and to minimize disruption to learning for our students and their families,” Zrike wrote. “We remain confident and determined to fully open the school this fall with in-person learning for all students.”
To achieve this, Zrike recommends that all staff and students hide inside.
“Due to the level of contagiousness of this variant and the increased possibility for those who are vaccinated to have and spread the virus as a result of the variant, it is essential to reduce the introduction of small droplets and particles by ensuring what all individuals wear masks indoors and on our buses, ”Zrike wrote. “We have seen strong implementation in our schools last year.”
Masks would also be required for all family members, visitors and volunteers entering the school building. Symptom screening will continue and the district “still encourages meetings to be held outside,” Zrike wrote. Mask breaks will also be put in place. People indoors participating in a break “will be at least three feet apart and mask breaks will not last more than 10 minutes.”
The district will continue its weekly surveillance tests for all staff and students. Additionally, the launch of a state-level ‘Test to Stay’ program means those who are in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case can ‘participate in daily rapid tests and stay in school. Zrike wrote. “This is an important step in reducing the disruption if there are any positive cases this fall.” (Emphasis Zrike)
However, masks will not be required outdoors and all meals will be held outdoors weather permitting. “If eating takes place indoors, there will be a minimum of three feet of physical distance between individuals as well as additional ventilation in those spaces,” Zrike wrote.
“In addition to the above strategies, we continue to stress the importance of the vaccine as the most critical strategy to fight the virus,” Zrike wrote. “We are working with our partners to make it accessible to everyone in our community, in particular by organizing another vaccination clinic this Saturday, August 7. “
While the school committee will discuss school policies specifically on August 9, Zrike noted that the city’s health board is also meeting on Tuesday August 10 to discuss the city-wide strategy. A forum will also be organized to discuss plans to reopen schools on Tuesday August 24 from 5.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. Further details were not immediately clear.
“Last year, when we launched our reopening work, we put forward four core values: well-being, fairness, flexibility and community,” said Zrike. “We have seen our community come together to put our students first, live by those values and demonstrate our ability to adapt as we learn more about the virus. “
To read the full letter in English (with Spanish available) and to register for the August 7 vaccination clinic, visit bit.ly/3Aip4HV.