Going back to school is a team effort

Going back to school is a team effort
Posted on 10/12/2020
SUPERINTENDENT OP-ED: Going back to school is a team effort
By Superintendent Kenneth Salim, Ed.D.
Published in the Cambridge ChronicleWicked Local Cambridge

It goes without saying that this academic year comes with a unique set of challenges. After months of diligent planning and collaboration, we are pleased to welcome students enrolled as in-person learners back into many of our classrooms and schools this week. We are grateful for the hard work and commitment of our Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) community in helping put us in a position to begin this next phase of our school year. As always, our first priority is the well-being of our students and staff, and it’s important to highlight just some of the steps we have taken and the measures that will be in place to keep everyone safe and focused on learning. More details can be found in the CPS Health, Safety, & Facilities manual that was adopted by the School Committee on Oct. 6.

Testing and safety

CPS has partnered with the city of Cambridge and the Cambridge Public Health Department to establish a robust testing program. That includes optional, free, twice weekly testing for all staff and testing for symptomatic students and staff. On a daily basis, CPS students and staff must review a “Daily Health Checklist” before entering any building. We have also put additional health aides in every school and set aside “Get Well” rooms in every building for students who demonstrate symptoms.

Air quality and cleanliness

CPS has taken steps to ensure sufficient air is exchanged in occupied rooms. This includes improvements to central ventilation and filtration systems, box fans to circulate fresh air and repairs to allow windows to open. For potentially under-ventilated areas, we will be using HEPA “air scrubbers” to filter air and eliminate any potential pathogens. CPS has allocated additional custodial staff for daily cleaning and sanitizing. We have increased our cleaning and disinfecting protocols and have also purchased additional equipment, including electrostatic sprayers, to assist in this process.

Social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing

Our students will notice our buildings and classrooms have been reconfigured to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. That includes desks and worktables spaced 6-feet apart to accommodate 10 to 12 students in a typical classroom. We have placed virus shields in the high-traffic areas of our schools and installed additional sinks in common areas. Our students and staff may use any approved mask they prefer, but CPS will also have masks available for those who need them, and an abundant supply of other personal protective equipment including face shields, gloves, goggles and coveralls.

Rising to this challenge is the result of the incredibly hard work of our facilities and building staff, teachers, administrators, families and community stakeholders. Managing the challenges of school during a pandemic will require continued patience, flexibility and cooperation in the days and months ahead. We acknowledge there will be challenges, but together we can provide our students with a rigorous, joyful and culturally responsive learning experience, while keeping our community safe and healthy.

Kenneth N. Salim, Ed.D., is the superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools.
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