Preparedness Update: March 12, 2020

Dear CPS Community:

Last night, I learned that my child’s school will be closed due to a school community member testing positive for COVID-19. All those who have entered the building have been advised to avoid public places and practice social distancing, and this applies to me.

As advised by health officials, I am going to be working remotely, including making my presentation of the 2020-21 Budget by videoconference. I will remain in constant contact with my team in CPS and with local public health and State officials, and this particular disruption should be navigable. 

As we have reiterated many times: Please follow the guidance of your doctor and health officials when determining whether to go to work or school, or whether to send children to school. Although it is not ideal, I will be working from home in order to do just that. 

My team and I had been working on a new update responding to the many questions we have been receiving, and we are including this update below.. We will continue to send communications to you as frequently as needed. Our community is strong, and we will get through this together.

Sincerely,

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

Frequently Asked Questions
Even more FAQs can be found on our website. If you can’t find the answer you are looking for, please email us. While we cannot respond to every email we receive, we are reading every one and greatly appreciate your feedback. 

What will be the impact of the Superintendent’s situation on Cambridge Public Schools?
After consultation with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), the Superintendent will be adhering to their recommendations including avoiding public places. For the time being, he will be working by remote from home. He remains vitally engaged in the important decision-making and preparedness activities occurring within CPS and is in close communication with public health officials throughout the day. 

What is the impact on the Special Meeting of the Cambridge School Committee and Presentation of the proposed CPS Budget for SY 2020-21?
Tonight’s special meeting of the Cambridge School Committee will proceed as planned, with the Superintendent presenting his proposed budget via videoconference. The ICTS department has been working on solutions to allow remote participation in public meetings for committee members who are unable to attend. Since there is no public comment until Tuesday night, members of the community are encouraged to view the presentation online via the School Committee websiteView more information about the CPS Budget Process >>

Why aren’t schools closed in Cambridge?
We will make the decision to close a school or multiple schools in collaboration with local and state public health experts and officials. Please keep in mind that while many businesses and universities can function without being physically open, public schools have must weigh additional factors in our decision-making. A large number of our students rely on CPS for a portion of their nutritional needs. And, although our primary mission is education, many working families would experience significant financial hardship if their children were not at school during the day. 

CPS is working closely with City officials to address these challenges for vulnerable families in the event that schools need to close. Again, guidance around these decisions is evolving as the situation unfolds, and any decisions to close will be made jointly with health officials and informed by the latest state and federal guidance. 

Who can help me understand if I should stay home at this time?

Your doctor is the best person to speak with if you believe you may have been exposed to, or may be sick from this virus. There is an extensive reporting network in place, and your doctor is an important part of it. You may also call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617.983.6800.

To summarize the current guidance from the CDC:

  • If you are sick: Stay home until you feel better, and contact your doctor if you are concerned.

  • If you are under self-quarantine and become sick: You should seek medical care. Call your doctor’s office or the hospital so that they can prepare for your arrival and help prevent exposure to other patients.

Will there be a penalty for calling in sick?
No. If you are sick, have been exposed to this virus, or are at increased risk of serious complications from this illness, please stay home.

  • Students: 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: CPS is developing procedures for potential staff absences that may be COVID-19 related, incorporating feedback from City officials and union leaders. We expect to share these procedures as soon as possible. We are committed to providing a supportive response to our valued employees.

Won’t students fall too far behind if they do stay home from school when school is open?
Students who need to stay home for any reason should do their best to keep up with schoolwork using Google Classroom, emailing teachers, and accessing other online tools to the extent possible.We continue to explore possible options for supporting student learning in the event of prolonged absences or school closures. 

If you are worried about missed school or work, please keep in mind that you are not alone. People across the world and here in Cambridge are having to cope with significant disruption in their lives. We will help one another get through this. Nothing is more important than your health.

What advice is available on talking about Coronavirus with children and teens?

The following resources may be helpful in speaking with students and your own children about the COVID-19 outbreak.

I am feeling very worried and stressed. Who can help?
Students who are feeling stressed should talk with an adult you trust -- whether a family member, teacher, or someone in your learning community. High schoolers can access free counseling support through the Teen Health Center. 

Staff are encouraged to contact our Employee Assistance Program for free, confidential and anonymous counseling and support.

Parents and families can find further support through your doctor, or the organizations listed in FindItCambridge.org.

How can I sign up to receive notifications from CPS?
Texting: If you are a current parent, staff or student within the CPS community, please Text HELP to 675-87. You will receive a message inviting you to opt in or out -- type Y. 

Email & Robocalls: (Students, Staff & Families): Please contact the clerk of your school or learning community to provide your current email address and the best phone number for reaching you.

If you are not part of the CPS community: We are unable to add members of the general public to our texting and email system. If you believe you should be added to our list because you are a community-based agency or for another reason, please email [email protected] for assistance.

More FAQs can be found here.

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