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Health and Safety Updates - 1.13.20

Dear NPS Families, 

I am writing to you today with some important health and safety updates. It is very important to me that you receive accurate and timely information on the steps the district is taking to improve and enhance health and safety measures for all NPS students, faculty and staff. This is an ongoing process as we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and the ways in which we can mitigate risk in our school communities. 

 The latest work undertaken in the areas of ventilation and testing are additional mitigation measures that expand and enhance the safety of our buildings. To that end, below you will find updates on both our building ventilation work and our COVID-19 testing for staff. We will continue to work with Newton HHS to deploy effective health and safety protocols during this pandemic. 

Building Ventilation

As you know, over the summer we undertook an extensive evaluation of our school buildings to ensure proper ventilation in all spaces utilized by students, faculty and staff. Using both mechanical and natural (open doors and windows), staff and students were able to return to the buildings beginning in September. The ventilation work done, combined with the four health pillars identified by our partners at HHS (masks, distancing, hygiene, staying home when sick), have allowed us to keep our schools open and operational from September until now. 

In October, we began the second phase of ventilation work, which is now nearing completion. In this phase, the city implemented a comprehensive maintenance, modification, and improvement plan for the ventilation systems in all Newton Public School buildings. The plan utilized a multi-pronged approach to evaluating the systems, which included:

  • Conduct existing conditions analysis
  • Service, repair, and improve ventilation systems
  • Utilize air testing and balancing to ensure proper airflow

All data and reports from the work conducted is published on our website as it is received from the City. In addition, we are compiling “data dashboards” that summarize the work completed, as well as any follow up work to be done. The work will continue until all spaces have achieved proper airflow for full occupancy. I encourage you to visit this webpage to review the work conducted in your school building.

COVID-19 Testing

Our voluntary testing for NPS staff has been up and running since December 21 and I am pleased to report that as today, 820 tests have been completed. This has truly been a monumental undertaking as you can imagine that school districts were not well-equipped to conduct health testing in a global pandemic. However, the team assembled has done a terrific job of designing and implementing a testing program that allows staff to access tests and results in a quick, efficient, and safe manner. This program will continue to operate until the end of February and from there, we will determine next steps to expand and enhance testing for NPS staff.

As you know, the COVID-19 testing landscape is quickly changing. Last week, Governor Baker announced the availability of pooled testing to school districts through a state contract. We have taken the required steps to indicate our interest in participating in this new program. More information was shared by the state this week and we anticipate more details over the next few weeks. This announcement comes as our school nurses are completing training with the BinaxNOW rapid test pilot program announced by the state in the fall. Together with our partners at Newton HHS and medical consultants, we have formed a working group with members of our NPS team to explore testing options and we will share information as their work continues.

We do know that PreK-12 educators and staff have been placed in the second wave of vaccinations, tentatively scheduled for the February - April timeframe. HHS is committed to offering vaccination clinics for NPS staff once they are authorized to do so by the state. We will share information about the timeframe for vaccinations for NPS staff as we learn more. 

I want you to know that we are working every day to improve and enhance the health and safety measures in place in our school buildings. The work we have done thus far has allowed us to successfully mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in our school buildings. 

I wish you a safe and healthy 2021.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman

Superintendent of Schools