Tomorrow, Pelham Middle School and Pelham Memorial High School will reopen for the first time since the Thanksgiving break and I wanted to provide an update about the District’s efforts to keep our schools open for in-person instruction. It’s important to understand that there is no specific internal metric or threshold that determines when schools must shift to full remote instruction. This is largely because the circumstances of each case are often very different. Factors that are considered include the number of individuals who test positive within a school, the results of contact tracing, when the individual was last in school and the number of staff who may be impacted by quarantine within a given school.
The recent closures are illustrative of just how difficult it is to keep our schools open for in-person instruction. As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, we must recommit as a community to doing all we can to keep our students, staff and families safe, including wearing masks/face coverings, keeping physically distant and keeping your children home if they exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19.
As we have gained experience in dealing with these issues, we are trying to take a more targeted approach that results in the fewest amount of few students learning remotely. When possible, we try to shift specific classes or grade levels to fully remote instruction rather than entire schools or campuses. With that said, there are times when the number of instructional and/or support staff in quarantine is such that a particular school can not function safely or effectively and in those circumstances, closing an entire building becomes necessary.
We are extremely pleased that to date, we have not experienced any detectable spread of COVID-19 among students or between students and staff within school. We believe this is a testament to the many health and safety measures that are in place, the incredible diligence of our students, families and teachers, and the remarkable work of our facilities department and nursing staff. Additionally, our administrative team has worked to quickly identify and notify those students and staff members who must quarantine/isolate as a result of exposure, which we believe is helping to mitigate the spread.
Please know that the District is continuing to closely monitor regional infection rates, changes to guidance from the Department of Health and the Governor, and conditions within our schools. In recent weeks, we have been preparing to implement a testing strategy should it become necessary and are continuing to review our internal operations so that we can keep our students and staff as safe as possible while continuing to have our students in school, which is the most conducive environment for learning.
Thank you for your continued support and flexibility. We will all continue to be vigilant as we head into the weeks and months ahead.
Cheryl H. Champ, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools