DPS will be closed 14 Days

Letter from Dr. Vieira

Dear Douglas Community,


I want to start off by saying how proud I am of the leadership team, teachers, our students, and the community. To date, we have only had three positive cases in the Douglas Public Schools and those cases were not contacted within the school. The safety protocols we put in place over the summer worked to keep students and staff safe in schools. The vigilance of our staff implementing these and the cooperative nature of our students have allowed us to stay incident free in school and open to this point in the year. I need to say thank you to everyone for this. 


Yesterday during the school day I was made aware of two situations involving multiple members of the school community. We had these situations under control and we communicated them with the parents, students, and staff that we needed to inform. Last night, between 6PM and 8PM I was made aware of two different situations, involving multiple members of the school community, that I needed to investigate. I needed time to effectively do that; it was for that reason that I closed schools for today, November 17. 


I would like to share with you what has transpired with these four cases for you to understand what has occurred and to see the impact it has had and can potentially have on our school community. Much of the information is vague and needs to be to protect the privacy of individuals, but it will still provide you with a clear picture of our current situation and its implications.


Case 1:

Yesterday I found out that five members of our school community (school community is defined as students, faculty and/or staff) were considered to be presumptive positive. These individuals are all experiencing multiple symptoms associated with COVID-19 and they have each been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person. This contact did not occur in school. Two of these individuals are in the primary school, one in the elementary school, one at the high school, and one fully remote. When we did our contact tracing inside classrooms, the buses, and the cafeterias we had to ask nineteen school community members to quarantine. 


The question has been asked if everyone is six feet away from each other and always wearing a mask why would there be any close contacts? On the bus, students sit one student per seat per regulations. We contacted anyone sitting directly in front of, behind, or diagonally from a student. Windows are open and the seats do provide a barrier but we felt it important to include these students as close contacts.  In terms of the cafeteria, students are 6 feet apart, but not wearing masks, which is allowed in the regulations. At times students lean over to talk to other students. Again, to be cautious, anyone sitting next to a student we considered a close contact. In our PreK-8 classrooms, students are self contained in a classroom for the majority of the day. All desks are 6 feet apart and students are wearing masks at all times. We considered anyone sitting directly next to, in front of, or behind a student a close contact. Is this a higher standard? Yes! Did we have to do this? No! As an example, a student sitting 6 feet apart from a presumptive positive student for 6 hours a day for two days straight, per the guidance does not need to quarantine. But logic and caution suggests otherwise in this case. As I have consistently maintained, as we meander through this health crisis, we will do what we feel is right for our students and staff for their health, safety, and wellbeing and no two situations are the same.


Case 2:

Yesterday morning we investigated a case where three members of the school community were in direct contact with a COVID-19 positive case. Again, this did not occur in school. We met with these individuals, established our contact tracing and were able to contain it to three members of the high school community. 


Case 3:

Last night at approximately 6PM I was made aware of six members of the school community who came in contact with a COVID-19 positive case. Again, this did not occur in school. Some of these individuals are starting to be symptomatic at this time. One of these members is at the Primary School, two at the Elementary School, two at the Middle School, and one at the High School. We needed the time today to start contact tracing for these individuals if they were to be positive and also to obtain more information about each of the cases. If they each become positive, after we do our contact tracing inside classrooms, the buses, and the cafeterias we need to ask twenty five (25) school community members to quarantine. 


Case 4:

At approximately 8PM last night I was made aware of a social gathering that occurred over the weekend where social distancing and masks may not have been worn. There was an individual, not associated with the school, that has since tested COVID-19 positive at the gathering. Based on information from people with direct knowledge of this gathering the incident only involved three members of the school community and they do not have any close contacts.


Based on this information and its uncertainty, the Douglas Public Schools will close for 14 days in order to allow for these situations to clear. School will reopen for everyone on Tuesday December 1, 2020. Monday (November 16) was considered day zero of contact and 14 days will bring us to returning on the first. During this time period we will also continue to monitor the data. If it continues to spike we may be forced to close for an extended period of time. Below is an overview of the data since Halloween:




Date

Total Positive Cases in MA

% Positive in Douglas

Total Cases in Douglas

Positivity % in MA

Positivity % in MA without Higher Ed

10/31

1292

1.97%

9

2%

Range from 2.49% to 5.16%

11/7

2200

3.5%

16

2.6%

11/14

2841

3.99%

22

3.1%


Your help is critical in helping us stay open. I ask that over the next two weeks, especially with Thanksgiving next week, that people follow the Governor's recommendations along with proper social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene. I will be looking at the current cases we have in Douglas, along with information across the Commonwealth during this time period. If numbers trend in the current direction, the Douglas Public Schools will remain in a remote model until Tuesday January 19, 2021. This will allow for consistency in the model and also to see if there is a spike after the holidays. This decision will be made based on the data for the next two weeks and an announcement will be made on Saturday, November 28. Please assist us in staying open by following the rules that are in place, they do and have worked and are critical to us staying open.


The School Committee meeting for tomorrow has been moved to be full on Zoom. This will allow for more people to be able to attend and ask questions as this will be discussed tomorrow. Below is a link to the meeting that starts at 7PM.

https://douglasps-net.zoom.us/j/81760837618?pwd=WlROdC9MMkV5U25QQ25ERGJiWWJLZz09 

Meeting ID: 817 6083 7618 

Password: 814863


Respectfully,

Paul D. Vieira

Paul D. Vieira, Ed.D

Superintendent

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2020 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.