CH-CH may be required to close campus on a short- or long-term basis this school year. Campus closing metrics are those data points that inform if, and when, we must close campus, as well as when we may be able to reopen campus, due to COVID-19 outbreaks and/or health monitoring/quarantining in our own school community.
There has been much discussion about COVID-19 health and safety metrics that can be helpful guidelines for when schools reopen, stay open, close, and then perhaps re-open again during the upcoming school year. Such metrics serve not only as a guide to both public and independent schools as to whether schools should open the academic year using full-time in-person, hybrid, or remote models, but also to support future decision-making if the impact of COVID-19 requires schools to switch between learning models throughout the school year.
Each Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) releases its Weekly COVID-19 Public Health Report
that contains critical metrics for each municipality in the Commonwealth. There is also a color-coded indication posted for each municipality calculated on a rolling two-week basis.
Because the impact of the virus is local, the concept of this particular COVID-19 health/safety designation is focused on the municipal level. Following the release of these updated metrics, the MDPH and DESE will be providing districts and schools with initial guidance on how to interpret the data for various school settings. These guidelines were developed in consultation with the DESE infectious disease physicians and other public health experts.
As for general guidance for interpreting these metrics, DESE recommends that while average daily cases per 100,000 over a two-week period is the metric that determines the color-coding for each community, districts and schools should also monitor whether cases are increasing or decreasing as compared to the prior period. The local test positivity rate also remains an important metric to monitor. In consultation with the Waltham Health Department, CH-CH will consider whether these additional metrics and underlying data may indicate other concerning trends.
CH-CH will study multiple consecutive weekly COVID-19 reports to assess trends in order to inform any changes to our learning model for the start of the school year or to make any changes during the year. Since we draw students from over 35 different towns and cities in the Commonwealth, we will look to the MDPH and DESE for additional guidance that points to the appropriate data to view in our context.
Based on these updated weekly COVID-19 metrics from the MDPH, CH-CH will be in a position to best determine the most appropriate learning model to pursue as the school year forges ahead. We will follow the Commonwealth’s color-coded metrics unless there are extenuating circumstances identified after consultation with the Waltham Health Department. This includes reviewing additional metrics, such as whether cases are increasing or decreasing, the local test positivity rate, and other contextual factors taking place on campus and in our transient school community. Updated metrics and related guidance will support our decision-making throughout the year if and when we encounter changing circumstances.
To be certain, we will close campus and switch to 100% remote learning (either long-term or short-term) if Massachusetts’ Governor Baker executes a State of Emergency executive order closing campuses throughout the Commonwealth. This would be a similar situation as experienced this past spring. Most notably, if there is an order universally closing public school campuses around the state, CH-CH would follow said order and close our 42-acre independent school campus while pivoting to a 100% remote learning model.
Regardless of what the weekly, local, town-based COVID-19 metrics from the MDPH determine, we may be required to close the CH-CH campus if an impactful percentage of our full-time, on-campus teachers are unable to instruct due to COVID-19 related monitoring/illness. To note, this is not necessarily due to the actual COVID-19 disease, but rather related monitoring or other illness that prevents our faculty from teaching, even remotely. We suspect that there will be occasions when teaching faculty will need to be quarantined at home but still be able to remotely instruct their classes.
In regards to our on-campus, in-person student body, if 25% of our on-campus students are out due to COVID-19 related monitoring/illness, we will plan to close campus on a short-term basis. Again, this is not necessarily the COVID-19 disease but, rather, a monitoring and quarantining situation for observation purposes and/or actual illness. Similar to our teaching faculty, it would be our hope and expectation that students quarantining at home will still be able to engage in remote learning unless their illness prevented them from such learning. As such, we do expect students needing to pivot from on campus to remote learning, and back again, during the upcoming school year. A student’s return to campus will be arranged in concert with health approval from the CH-CH Health Office.
To be clear, there is not an exact predetermined number of positive COVID-19 cases within the CH-CH community that would force a school closure. There is simply no current guidance concerning this metric because it is highly contextual for each particular school community. With one case, the School will seriously consider the possibility of closure, but one case alone may not necessitate closure. Much would depend on what our contract tracing protocols, procedures and outcomes reveal. CH-CH would be in close communication with the Waltham Health Department to secure additional health guidance and determine the most appropriate course of action for the School to pursue.
Related, the MyMedBot app will provide access to the Daily Parent Screening/Attestation feature for families to conduct student health screenings. It will be critically important to each member of the on-campus learning community each day. We expect that before community members arrive to campus (or walkabout campus, if they are faculty/staff campus residents), they will engage in a quick COVID-19 symptom self-assessment using this mobile app. Download on Apple iOS
or Download on Android
This self-assessment will become a habitual part of our daily regimen before school each day. It will allow the School to track the general well-being of the campus community. Earlier this week, the CH-CH Health Office released guidance to community members on securing and using this mobile app. Click HERE
for guidance on how to download and set-up your credentials for the MyMedBot app.