Getting Answers: COVID-19 notification protocols at area schools | News
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — With students fully back to in-person learning this year, there is now a looming reality of positive COVID-19 cases impacting schools. The highest number reported last week was over 250,000 children in the U.S. testing positive and now, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is stepping in. Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has informed superintendents that all school districts will be required to report positive COVID-19 cases starting next week.
Before this all goes into effect on September 13, many parents have reached out to our newsroom concerned about how schools are notifying families and staff of positive COVID-19 cases. We reached out to several school districts and here is what we found.
Western Mass News is getting answers after we received multiple emails in recent days from concerned parents looking for clarification on how schools are notifying families and staff of positive COVID-19 cases within the classroom.
One parent from the White Street Elementary School in Springfield stated she received a recorded call, but no further information was provided.
We reached out to Springfield Public Schools for clarification. Spokesperson Azell Cavaan told Western Mass News there are two calls that are made when someone within the district tests positive. One is a personalized call from a school official.
“If you receive a personal phone call, you will be getting a message that your child is considered a close contact who had tested positive in school,” Cavaan explained.
Cavaan said if you do not get a personal call, parents within the impacted school can expect a robocall at the end of day “explaining to parents at that school that someone, somewhere in the building had tested positive. That’s just for general notification. It doesn’t mean your child was anywhere in close proximity to that student or staff person.”
We also checked in with Springfield International Charter School. Interim Director Justin Baker told us they’ve had positive COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the school year on August 30. If they identify a student as a close contact, the nursing staff contacts parents individually. He went on to say, in part, “We communicate with all parents weekly through our website, as well as direct email, to provide our SICS families with related health updates.”
However, there are some changes coming soon on how schools collect and report data. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has notified superintendents that they will once again require school districts to report positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff like they did last school year. This change will go into effect starting September 13.
DESE spokesperson Colleen Quinn told us, in part, “This data will give the commissioner more information to assess conditions at schools. DESE will make the information available in weekly reports.”
DESE is scheduled to have a meeting on Thursday to further discusses the COVID-19 testing program and protocols. We will keep you updated on what comes out of that meeting.