I am writing to provide you with an update on our COVID-19 management efforts, including our testing program.
Recently, the state has seen an increase in positive COVID cases and Winchester is starting to see an uptick in both our community and schools. All indications are that as we begin to transition to the winter months and spend more time indoors, cases may continue to rise. It is important to note that the majority of school cases are not the result of in-school transmission; often there is household spread. Some are being identified through our testing programs, and others by testing done outside of school. I encourage you to view our COVID-19 School Dashboard, which is updated regularly, to see the impact it is having on your student’s school.
WPS efforts to monitor and limit transmission of COVID include:
Contact tracing: Communicate to families of students who have been identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 individual so they can take action to limit potential spread.
Test and Stay: In-school BINAX Now testing for all unvaccinated students who are identified as in school close contact within 0-3ft of a positive person AND who have consented so they can remain in school. Currently, WPS has over 100 students in 6 schools who are able to remain in school due to Test and Stay.
Additional Testing: Targeted testing efforts in circumstances where additional surveillance is warranted.
The increase in the number of cases has caused a significant increase in the amount of contact tracing our nurses are conducting, as well as additional management of our testing programs. Our first priority is to communicate with the families of students who are within 3 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for more than 15 minutes while indoors. By DESE protocol, these students, if unvaccinated and symptom-free, qualify for the Test & Stay program.
Finally, it is important for our students and staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible. With the recent approval of vaccination for students aged 5-11, we have worked with the Town Health Department to arrange a vaccination clinic at Winchester High School on Saturday, November 20, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. One benefit of students being fully vaccinated is that there is no requirement to quarantine unless they are symptomatic. We will send out the link to register for the clinic as soon as it becomes available, but you can visit the Town’s vaccination site. You can also find appointments on the Massachusetts State website.
One of the most important things you can do is to continue to monitor your students for any COVID-19 symptoms and keep them home if they are ill.
We appreciate your continued support to keep our students and staff healthy and safe. If you have any questions, please contact your school.
Frank Hackett, Ed.D.
Interim Superintendent of Schools