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COVID-19

Overview
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The Newburyport Public Schools (NPS) has worked closely with the Newburyport Board of Health and our Medical Advisory Team to understand the updated recommendations and guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and CDC

Decisions about NPS safety protocols are made with consideration of our local metrics (e.g. student and staff vaccination rates, City of Newburyport positivity rates, District positivity rates) and in line with local, state, and federal guidance.

The NPS Medical Advisory Team meets regularly to review local data and respond to any changing regulations. Members of the NPS Advisory Team have expertise in epidemiology, public health, medical operations, pediatrics, school-based nursing and educational administration. All of these areas are considered when making decisions for our students and staff. Please see below for a list of members.

We will continue to monitor local health data and respond with changes in protocols when needed.

mask policies
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Masks are required for all students and staff indoors and on buses regardless of vaccine status. Masks are optional outdoors. See updated DESE Guidance here.

mask graphic

vaccinations
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We encourage all eligible students and staff to get vaccinated and get a booster when eligible.
 
According to the CDC, “Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccinations can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.” 
 
The COVID-19 vaccination is free and available for all people age 5 and older. The booster is available for everyone ages 12 and older. For information on local vaccination options, see the Mass.gov vaccination site.

COVID-19 TESTING, QuaraNtine and Isolation Protocols
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COVID Testing Options

NPS offers an in-school COVID-19 testing program. This program has two components: 
  • Symptomatic Testing for students who show symptoms of COVID-19 at school. 
  • Test and Stay for students who may have been exposed while in school but are not showing symptoms. 

To participate in the testing program, parents must have a completed online consent. Each of these tests is a quick, non-invasive nasal swab that is collected under the supervision of a school nurse or trained health provider. Below are descriptions of how each test is conducted, and what they are used for. 

1) Symptomatic Testing

Students and staff should not come to school if they are feeling sick while at home.  If a student or staff member develops symptoms in school, then Symptomatic Testing could be used. This is a rapid test (results are ready within 15 min).
  • If the result is positive, they will be sent home and follow the instructions below for a positive case. 
  • If the result is negative, they will be sent home (see note below). The student’s parent/guardian, or the staff member, will be informed that the negative test is presumptive and they should follow the instructions for Symptomatic Persons below. 
  • Note: BinaxNOW tests are less sensitive and less specific than PCR tests. PCR confirmation is recommended for asymptomatic persons with a positive BinaxNOW test AND for symptomatic persons with a negative test, unless those symptoms are unlikely to be due to COVID-19. If the results are discordant, for the purposes of these protocols, the PCR result would be taken as the true result, assuming the two tests are done within 2 days of each other.

2) Test and Stay

This process allows students who have had close contact while at school with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 to stay in school if they are not showing symptoms. Instead of needing to quarantine and miss school, these students will take a daily rapid test and remain in school as long as they are not symptomatic. Students participate in Test and Stay for at least five days after they may have been exposed. 

Close Contacts and Quarantine Protocols

We will continue to monitor positive cases in the schools. As we have not seen the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom, which continues to be a low risk setting with mitigation strategies in place, contact tracing will be completed by the school nurses for lunch and high risk settings if necessary and feasible.

DESE Definition of a Close Contact 

Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors, for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. Please note that the at-risk exposure time begins 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or time of positive test if asymptomatic) and continues until the time the COVID-19 positive individual is isolated.

Close contacts who are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols:

  • Asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts: Individuals who are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated (2 weeks past the second vaccination) are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols. 
  • Classroom close contacts: An individual who is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual in the classroom while both individuals were masked, so long as the individuals were spaced at least 3 feet apart, is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols. 
  • Bus close contacts: Individuals on buses must be masked according to federal requirements. As such, individuals who are masked on buses when windows are open are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols. 
  • Close contacts who have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days: An individual who has been previously diagnosed with COVID-19 and then becomes a close contact of someone with COVID-19 is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols if: 
    • the exposure occurred within 90 days of the onset of their own illness AND 
    • the exposed individual is recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms

Close Contacts who have symptoms:

If an individual has symptoms at the time they are designated as a close contact or within the 5 days following initial exposure, they follow the protocol for symptomatic individuals. If an individual tests positive at any time, they follow the protocol for individuals who test positive for COVID-19. 

Quarantine and Isolation Reference Table
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Based on the recommendation of DESE, the following quarantine/isolation protocols will be used:
Situation
Recommended Action
POSITIVE CASE 
Isolation for a minimum of 5 days after symptom onset or after positive test if asymptomatic.
  • Return to school after 5 days and once they have: 
    • have a negative antigen or PCR test for COVID-19 at day 5 after exposure. An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional.
    • been without fever for 24 hours (and without taking fever-reducing medications); and, 
    • experienced improvement in symptoms.
  • Following the 5-day isolation period, individuals must mask for 5 additional days when around others.
  • Individuals who do not meet these criteria after 5 days must remain out of school until the criteria is met.
CLOSE CONTACT
Not fully vaccinated
No symptoms





Traditional Quarantine (for students who were deemed a close contact to someone outside of school): 
Quarantine for 5 days, return to school on day 6 IF: 
  • remain asymptomatic, and 
  • have a negative antigen or PCR test for COVID-19 at day 5 after exposure. An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional.
Students must monitor for symptoms through day 10 and adhere to strict mask use for an additional 5 days. 

Test and Stay (ONLY for students who were deemed a close contact to someone while at lunch or a high risk setting in school or during a school sponsored event):

Remain in school and do not have to quarantine, as long as they: 
  • are asymptomatic 
  • wear masks in school at all times, other than when eating or drinking. When these individuals cannot be masked (i.e., when eating or drinking), they should maintain 3 feet of distance from other individuals to the extent feasible. 
  • take a rapid antigen test daily for five days from exposure. When the 5 days from date of exposure includes weekends or holidays, individuals should quarantine on weekends. If they remain asymptomatic, they will test immediately upon return to school. 
  • conduct active monitoring for symptoms through day 10, and self-isolate at home if symptoms develop. 
CLOSE CONTACT
Fully vaccinated 
No symptoms
Quarantine not required
CLOSE CONTACT
Had COVID-19 within 90 days
No symptoms
Quarantine not required
  • Monitor for symptoms for 10 days post exposure.
SYMPTOMATIC
INDIVIDUAL
(applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated)
Option 1: ​​Isolation duration is based on symptom resolution. Individuals may return to school after they: 
  • have received a negative PCR or antigen test result for COVID-19. An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional. 
  • If the individual is not a close contact, an alternative diagnosis by a medical professional for the COVID-19-like symptoms (e.g., for influenza or strep pharyngitis) may be accepted in lieu of a PCR test or antigen test.
  • have improvement in symptoms. 
  • have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Option 2: No testing
  • Isolation is at least 5 days from symptom onset.
  • Return to School after 5 days, returning on day 6, assuming they: 
    • have improvement in symptoms. 
    • have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. 

 
FREquently asked questions
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What guidance is NPS following for isolation and quarantine? NPS will be following DESE and DPH Guidance for isolation and quarantine. The NPS Medical Advisory Team meets bi-weekly to monitor local metrics and set local policies. 

What do I do if my child has tested positive (isolation): If your child tests positive, please notify your child’s school nurse. Your child will isolate for a minimum of 5 days after symptom onset or after a positive test if asymptomatic. Day Zero: positive test or start of symptoms. Day 5: last full day of isolation. Day 6: return to school as long as they are fever and symptom free AND have a negative antigen or PCR test for COVID-19 prior to returning to school (masks must be worn through day 10 including outdoors at recess). An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional. Your child will continue isolation if they test positive after 5 days. 

What is the definition of a close contact? Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors, for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. Please note that the at-risk exposure time begins 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or time of positive test if asymptomatic) and continues until the time the COVID-19 positive individual is isolated.

What do I do if my child is a close contact of a positive case out of school (quarantine): If your child is fully vaccinated (2 weeks past the second vaccination shot) and symptom free, quarantine is not required. If your child is not fully vaccinated and is deemed a close contact to someone outside of school, they will quarantine for 5 days. 

When can my child return to school if they are a close contact outside of school? If they are not fully vaccinated, they must quarantine for 5 days. They can return to school on Day 6 provided they are asymptomatic AND have a negative antigen or PCR test for COVID-19 at day 5 after exposure. An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional. 

What happens if my child is a close contact with a person at school? Students who have had close contact while at school stay in school if they are not showing symptoms and test negative. Instead of quarantining, these students take a daily rapid test and remain in school as long as they are not symptomatic. Students participate in Test and Stay for at least five days after they may have been exposed. Test and Stay is optional. Parents may choose traditional quarantine.

Can my child participate in Test and Stay if they are a close contact out of school? No, DESE regulations state that only students who are identified as close contacts within the school can participate in Test and Stay.

How will I be notified if my child is a close contact at school? Contact tracing will be completed by the school nurses for lunch and high risk settings when necessary and feasible. If your child is identified as a close contact in school, you will be notified by email or phone by the school nurse.

What if my child has symptoms during the time they are quarantining? If an individual has symptoms at the time they are designated as a close contact or within the 5 days following initial exposure, they should test as soon as possible. 

How do I know if my child is eligible for a vaccination? All children 5 and older are eligible for the vaccine. See the Mass.gov site for details and information on where to get a vaccination. 

How do I know if my child is eligible for a booster? All children 12 and over are eligible for a booster. See the Mass.Gov site for specific recommendations (based on your initial vaccination).

Can my child get a COVID-19 test at school if I cannot find a test outside of school? No, at this time we cannot offer testing to all students. Only students who are participating in the Test and Stay program or who develop symptoms at school are eligible for in-school testing. 

When should my child stay home from school? Please do not send your child to school if they have any of the following symptoms: Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills; difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; new loss of taste or smell; muscle aches or body aches; cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough); sore throat (when in combination with other symptoms); nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (when in combination with other symptoms); headache (when in combination with other symptoms); fatigue, (when in combination with other symptoms); nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies and when in combination with other symptoms).

What is the mask policy? All staff and students are required to wear masks on buses and indoors (except while eating). 

How do I track positive cases in the District? Our COVID-19 Dashboard is updated weekly on Wednesdays. You can find the link to the Dashboard on our District Home Page

Who do I contact if I have questions about the District COVID-19 protocols? If your child’s teacher cannot answer a question, the building principal is a good resource. You can also contact the building nurse or the District Nurse Leader Lauren McDonald. Please note that our protocols reflect Department of Public Health and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines

Who do I contact if my child has tested positive? Please notify your school nurse.

Who do I contact if someone in my child’s class has tested positive? If your child is deemed a close contact in school, the school nurse will notify you by phone or email. You do not need to contact anyone. You can expect to receive an email if someone in your child’s class has tested positive. 

Newburyport public schools Medical Advisory group
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  • Sean Gallagher, Superintendent of Schools
  • Frank Giacalone, Director of Public Health, City of Newburyport
  • Pam Palombo, Public Health Nurse, City of Newburyport
  • Jessica Lasky-Su, DSc, MS, NPS parent, epidemiologist, professor and statistician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Mike Allard, NPS parent, Chief Operating Officer for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Foundation
  • Lars Lundgren, MD, FAAP, Newburyport Public Schools consulting pediatrician, Children's HealthCare of Newburyport
  • Lauren McDonald, Director of Health Services, Newburyport Public Schools
  • Brian Callahan, Vice-chair, Newburyport School Committee
  • Joan Sheehan, President, Newburyport Teachers Association
  • Steve Bergholm, Director of Buildings and Grounds, Newburyport Public Schools
  • Pam Kealey, Director of Food Services, Newburyport Public Schools
  • NPS Extended Leadership Team (including all principals and assistant principals)
 

Newburyport School Committee COVID-19 ForumTop of Page