Dear Canton Families and Staff,
As you may know, the state created a COVID-19 Dashboard to help towns and school districts track data regarding the virus in their communities and to offer a metric that helps inform decisions around the Learning Models on the Continuum.
At each School Committee meeting, we present the Dashboard and describe the changes in Canton. For example, over the two-week period from September 16 to September 30, Canton’s average daily incidence rate moved from 2.5 per 100,000 (green) to 6.5 per 100,000 (yellow).
Today, October 14, the Town of Canton moved into the red category with an average daily incidence rate of 9.9, compared to a week ago in the yellow at 6.5.
What does this recent shift to “red” mean for the Canton Public Schools?
The Town of Canton’s identification of “red” represents a two-week trend in our community that deserves close attention and analysis. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has stated that ‘three consecutive weeks of metrics” should be used to determine learning models for schools. In addition, DESE recommends that districts collaborate with local safety officials to examine the impact on schools, including but not limited to: positive cases, contact tracing, quarantining requirements, student attendance, and staff attendance.
Even further, DESE’s guidance calls for consideration of certain cohorts, grade levels, or schools based on the information and impact. This comprehensive analysis is especially important because the cases are not always connected to the school or school community families.
The Town of Canton’s identification as “red” does not automatically mean that the school district is closing and moving into Remote Learning 2.0 (with the reminder that students with special circumstances may remain in-person for 4 or 4.5 days per week). Instead, we will continue to work with the Canton Health Department and the School Committee in order to decide if/when a cohort, a grade level, a school(s), or the district would shift to Remote Learning 2.0 temporarily for safety reasons.
Based on the conversations with local safety officials, Canton Public Schools will be staying in the Hybrid Model and will continue to make decisions based on health data and its impact.
How is the data analyzed?
We recognize that any shift or uptick in numbers can cause concern and anxiety and prompt questions for families, staff and students. It is important for families to know that CPS administration meets daily with the Health Department to review the town’s data, discuss any impact to the schools, and consider recommendations for overall safety.
The partnership and the collaboration with the Health Department, local safety officials, the CPS Nursing Team, and the CPS administration has been amazing. Our conversations are comprehensive and their guidance has been and continues to be invaluable. Student and staff safety are the top priority.
Given the variability of the rates and the differences in the meaning of the rates in a town, our school district uses a combination of different metrics to understand more fully the impact of the virus on our students and staff. This information guides our discussions and decisions. These metrics may include:
- Trend of daily count of positive cases
- Positivity rate
- Contact tracing
- R-number (R is the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person.)
- School absences (students and staff)
- Neighboring communities’ daily rates (MA weekly report of 14-day rolling average)
How will decisions and/or information be communicated?
A Positive Case in the School Community — If there is a positive case in the school community, I will be sending a letter that confirms that information. As you may have noticed from previous emails, the letter does not identify a school, grade level or if it is an adult or student. That is intentional to protect privacy. In fact, the language comes directly from template letters prepared by DESE. And I recognize its confidential nature makes it challenging for families and staff.
Most importantly, the letters state that “close contacts” will be contacted by members of the Health Department. I recognize that these letters may be redundant over time, but they are essential for proper notification and communication.
Confirmation of information — We understand that information may be in the community through conversations, rumors or posts on social media. As a school district, we only send communication when cases are confirmed through the Health Department and we conduct additional communication based on protocols. We thank you for your understanding and your patience around these important steps.
Communication around shifts to Remote 2.0 — We understand that any temporary safety shift to Remote Learning 2.0 can be challenging for families. It is our hope to always provide advance notice, but there are other times when the information may come in quickly and the decision needs to be made immediately. Please be prepared if we face this scenario. We want to be thoughtful and considerate of our families and educators, but we will act swiftly to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Our communications will come from the buildings and the district.
Positive case within your family — What happens if you have a positive case in your family?
Please complete the following steps:
- Call the Canton Health Department (781-821-5021) to inform of a positive case so formal contact tracing can begin. Provide the name of the testing site or copy of test results.
- Participate in contact tracing investigation by answering questions about potential close contacts.
- Inform the school. Families inform the school nurse. Staff inform the COVID line.
- Follow instructions to “Isolate” away from others for the full isolation period.
What can the Canton community do in response to this trend?
First and foremost, wear masks.
As a community, we cannot let our guard down in and out of school — especially as we head into these coming months. This message was the main focus of a town safety call this morning. It is especially important to wear masks, practice social distancing, adhere to safety protocols and routinely engage in hand hygiene.
Our staff and students have been incredible around following safety protocols and taking extra precautions. As a community, we will stay attentive and vigilant around safety, and we will stay united through this commitment.
As always, I appreciate your support and understanding.
Derek Folan, Interim Superintendent of Canton Public Schools