Preparedness Update: March 9, 2020

Dear CPS Community,

With the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolving, we are committed to regularly updating the community with the most up-to-date information and answers to the most frequently asked questions. Fortunately, there are no positive cases of COVID-19 among CPS staff, family, or students, as of March 9.

The Cambridge Public Health Department currently reports that the risk to most people in Cambridge is low at this time. There is elevated risk to residents who have, in the past 14 days, traveled to any of the “high risk” countries identified by the CDC (China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea) or areas of the U.S. where there is ongoing community spread of the virus. In addition, residents who work in healthcare settings or have had contact with someone with COVID-19 are at elevated risk.

Like communities across the country, CPS continues preparation and prevention activities. We know folks have lots of questions, including how Cambridge is responding to newly identified cases and the impact of recent cases involving a Biogen meeting that took place in Boston. We are focused on working with our City officials, community, and union partners to educate our community, provide additional guidance, and prepare for future scenarios.

In general, we encourage the CPS students, staff, and families/caregivers to follow the guidance of public health officials: regular hand-washing, coughing into your elbow, and staying home if you are not feeling well. We also reiterate the recommendations from the CDC: face masks should only be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

CPS will distribute regular updates as needed. Below you will find updated information and guidance as of March 9 at 7PM.

Updated Plans & Procedures (Monday, March 9, 2020)

Student and Staff Attendance

  • Student attendance procedures: CPS will continue to excuse all health-related absences. Students do not need to present symptoms to receive an excused absence. Families should notify schools if students are staying home.

  • Staff attendance and leave procedures: CPS is developing procedures for potential staff absences that may be COVID-19 related. CPS is working to incorporate feedback from City officials and union leaders, and we expect to share these procedures as soon as possible.

School Events

  • School events and family conferences: CPS is not canceling school events, such as performances, family events, or family conferences. We will continue to monitor the situation in collaboration with public health officials. Families, including those in which children or adults have a chronic health condition should use their best judgement in determining whether to attend school events. Please do not attend if you are not feeling well.

  • Signage: We are helping all schools post signage to educate students, staff, and families about recommended safety and health precautions.

Student Field Trips

  • Out-of-country school trips: Based upon the recommendation of Governor Baker and MA Department of Public Health, all out-of-country school trips will be cancelled. We will work with City finance staff to see what reimbursements can occur if agencies impose cancellation fees.

  • Overnight field trips in-state or out-of-state (planned): We are not cancelling currently planned overnight field trips in-state or out-of-state. We will continue to monitor situations on a case-by-case basis with public health officials to conduct risk assessments and revisit decisions as needed.

  • Overnight field trips in-state or out-of-state (unplanned or not yet announced): No new overnight field trips in-state or out-of-state will be approved.

  • Same-day field trips: At this time, most currently-planned, same-day field trips will occur as planned. We will continue to monitor situations and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. For example, all scheduled and future field trips to the Biogen Community Lab have been canceled.

Staff Attendance at Conferences or Other Professional Events

  • Professional events requiring air travel: Employees should not engage in air travel to attend professional or employment-related events on behalf of CPS. Any costs related to canceled air travel and lodging will be covered by CPS. No new air travel should be planned at this time for professional events. Employees should explore opportunities for virtual participation. 

  • Professional events requiring local travel: Employees may continue to attend professional events that require local travel, at the discretion of the employee with the approval of their principal or department head. Employees may explore opportunities for virtual participation, which is an increasing option offered by host organizations.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Student hand-washing: Health officials continue to advocate that hand washing is the most effective strategy with hand sanitizer as a potential substitute. We also know there is limited capacity at schools given the number and location and sinks. CPS is also exploring the availability of portable hand-washing basins to increase the capacity to wash students after recess before lunch.

  • Classroom cleaning procedures: Custodial staff have increased their attention to wiping down common spaces, doorknobs, railings, etc. CPS has secured additional disinfecting equipment.

Additional Planning Underway for Future Scenarios

  • Financial and other operations: CPS administrators are currently working with City officials to develop operational procedures to sustain operations in the case of a future emergency closure.

  • Remote learning: CPS is exploring options and implications for remote learning in the case of possible emergency closures.

Once again, I want to express my sense of pride in the caring and thoughtfulness of our community. Please do not hesitate to send your questions and ideas to [email protected] so that we can respond to the concerns of our community. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Kenneth N. Salim, Ed.D., Superintendent
Cambridge Public Schools

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