Coronavirus Update: March 6, 2020

Dear CPS Community,

As information about the COVID-19 outbreak continues to emerge, I know that many of you may be feeling anxious or worried. Our school district is committed to keeping you informed and to responding to the questions and concerns we hear from members of our community. Please know that the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and families is our highest priority.

We continue to work in partnership with Cambridge Public Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health throughout this evolving situation. If you have any individual, health-related concerns or questions, please contact your doctor’s office or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617.983.6800. There are health experts standing by at that phone number, should you have any questions.

The following information responds to questions we are receiving, and is being posted online.

Schools Remain Open
Currently, state and local health officials continue to recommend that schools remain open. In addition, there are other factors that we must consider. While education is our primary responsibility, hundreds of students and families also rely on public schools for their nutritional needs, safe supervision during the day, and support around developmental and social-emotional concerns. If schools are closed down, vulnerable families are at a higher risk of being negatively impacted. Closing schools is a last resort and will be done with great care, transparency, and in partnership with public health officials.

Another consideration is the unintended impact on our health care community and our collective response to COVID-19. Cambridge is home to many who work as first responders or medical care providers in Cambridge and Greater Boston. The longer we can keep our doors open, the better it will be for our students and the entire community. As soon as public health officials recommend that schools should close, we will close.

With that said, many of you may be feeling concerned by recent news that employees of a Cambridge-based business have confirmed cases of COVID-19. As news such as this comes closer to home, it is understandable that many may be worried. However, our practice will continue to be to notify the wider community only of specific confirmed cases.

At the same time, we are doing our best to respond to individual situations that staff or families are worried about. Please continue to share any questions you have with us, and know that we will keep you as informed as possible during this difficult time.

Cambridge is an International City

Guidance from the CDC regarding self-quarantine has been changing, and may continue to change. The Student Registration Center is keeping a close watch on evolving guidance and CPS is consulting with public health officials around how to communicate with students who are relocating to Cambridge from other areas.

We will post the current guidelines for school entry on the Student Registration Center website, and on the coronavirus website. We ask that members of our community refrain from speculation. There may be cases where a student or adult who has traveled may be cleared to come into our schools on one day, and then may be ordered to voluntarily self-quarantine. These are private decisions, and we need our community to trust that we are keeping a close watch and will notify the community as soon as there is any known risk that you need to be aware of.

Hand Washing and Hand Sanitizer

We are continuing to encourage soap and water hand washing in our schools. However, many of our schools all have lunch after recess -- because research has shown that this is better for students nutritionally and in terms of their physical activity needs. Schools have reported that it is very challenging to get 200 - 300 sets of hands washed with limited sinks available near playgrounds and the cafeteria. They are doing their best. If alcohol-based hand sanitizer needs to be substituted, we ask for your patience and understanding. Our teachers are on the front line with students every day, and their efforts to keep children healthy and safe are deserving of our deep appreciation.

Absences

Some children and family members may be at higher risk for severe illness because of underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system. We are asking parents to make the best decision for their families. As always, we will excuse all health-related absences. Your child does not need to present symptoms to receive an excused absence. As a parent, you know what is best for your family, and we will honor that decision. Please let your child’s school know if you will be keeping them home.

As stated previously, those with signs of illness, including COVID-19 symptoms should stay home.

Actions at the State Level

This afternoon, CPS participated in a conference call with MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley (our state education agency) regarding Coronavirus response and planning. At this time, the State is focused on contingency planning, to make adjustments to schedules and expectations in the event that schools need to close in the future. No decisions have been made about canceling trips and events at this time, but please know that as conditions evolve, guidance may change.

We hear our staff and families’ concerns about COVID-19. Thank you for sharing your questions, and please continue to do so by emailing [email protected] Thank you for helping us keep our children, schools, and community healthy and safe.

Sincerely,

Kenneth N. Salim, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
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