BURLINGTON - Like all districts, Burlington Public Schools are doing everything they can to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.
A continuing theme from last school year, the 2021-22 academic year has been guided through advice from the Burlington Board of Health and Massachusetts Department of Education. As of last Friday, a total of four positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the district, with three coming during the week of Sept. 13.
Following similar parameters to last year, all parents of students sharing classrooms with a student confirmed as having COVID-19 are contacted by school officials. The district’s new website www.burlingtonpublicschools.org/district/covid-19_info_reports summarizes the number of cases each week and those in quarantine. As of the last School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, there were 45 students in quarantine.
“It is different than last year, with the Delta variant and some students vaccinated, and some not,” mentioned Assistant School Supt. Patrick Larkin. “I ask for everyone’s patience as we try to get information out as fast as we can to parents and residents.”
The district is following the Department of Public Health’s contact tracing guidelines, calling for students to be 6-ft. apart from each other instead of 3-ft. when inside a school building.
Different from last year, if a student is asymptomatic and also vaccinated, they do not need to be tested and can stay in school during a contact tracing scenario. If the student is asymptomatic and not vaccinated, they are given a rapid test. If the results are negative, then they can stay in school.
The rapid tests are orchestrated by Test and Stay, a program that gives participating school districts BinaxNOW rapid response test kits to use on students and staff who are considered close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The standard rapid tests consist of recipients getting their noses swabbed for evidence of the virus, then they have to wait about 15 minutes for the results.
Test and Stay is not yet up-and-running in Burlington because it is a program provided by the state, and the town wasn’t in the first wave of test kits that were sent out. School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti says it has “been a challenge” and that receiving the test kits are “out of our control” but he is hopeful the district gets their Test and Stay kits by Oct. 1.
Though the objective was to have all students learning in a classroom, quarantined students are getting educated from home in remote fashion with their tablet devices provided by the school. Teachers have been able to successful juggle remote and in-class students. Fortunately, there aren’t more than 45 students quarantined at this time.
School Committee Chair Thomas Murphy reminded everyone that the state has made exceptions to their mandate of having all students in classrooms for this school year.
“The remote learning taking place this year is the exception to the rule,” Chair Murphy declared. “There are a very limited number of students in quarantine.”