As Yarmouth Schools prepare to return to full-time, in-person learning for all students on September 1, 2021, we must implement health and safety plans that will allow us to maintain a high attendance and participation rate. Our objective is to minimize student and staff absences due to illness or quarantine and eliminate the need for school closures or alternate instructional formats by reducing the likelihood of transmission of the COVID-19 virus in our community.
On August 16, 2021, the Yarmouth School Committee unanimously approved the reopening proposal developed by the District Leadership Team and Medical Advisory Panel. In this plan, we will implement a layered system of strategies to maximize learning for students and reduce time lost for illnesses, quarantines, or school closures, including:
1. Continue to maximize physical distancing (3’ between individuals) whenever possible, so long as it does not limit our ability to provide in-person learning to all students each school day.
2. Continue to focus on personal hygiene (frequent hand-washing, minimal sharing of supplies, proper sneeze and cough etiquette).
3. Maintain the expectation of daily self-checks for symptoms or possible exposure to positive cases by staff members and families of students.
4. Ongoing use of improved air filtration systems to remove particles and contaminants from indoor air.
5. Continue contact tracing and quarantining as directed by the CDC for individuals who are close contacts of positive cases.
6. Implement pooled COVID-19 testing on an optional basis of students and staff – to be conducted weekly at each grade level, with follow-up testing of individuals and quarantining as necessary in the event of positive cases. (NOTE: MDOE has stated that students and staff who participate in pool testing will not need to quarantine if they are a close contact of a positive case.)
7. Continue to promote vaccines for students in approved age groups, with potential for vaccination clinics throughout the fall.
8. Starting on Monday, August 23, require face coverings (masks) in all indoor settings and on all school transportation for all students and staff, K-12, regardless of vaccination status.
a. This will include a mask requirement for all participants and spectators at indoor athletic and after-school activities.
b. Allowances will be made for medically-documented cases that require accommodations under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
c. Masks may be removed when actively eating or drinking (if eating indoors, individuals are required to put their masks back on when not actually eating or drinking).
d. Staff may remove masks when alone in a classroom, office, or other space within the school.
e. Masks will not be required in outdoor settings.
As COVID-19 data is updated, this plan will be reviewed, and the Superintendent may ask the School Committee to reconsider any portion of the plan on an ongoing basis, with the first review occurring no later than October 14, 2021. As part of that review, the School Committee has asked the High School administration to seek input from the YHS Student Senate to propose an adjustment to this plan that may incentivize vaccinations and participation in pooled testing as one way to move toward a less restrictive mask mandate for students in grades 9-12.
Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff sent a letter to the Yarmouth School Community on August 17, providing more details about the data that led to this plan. Dr. Dolloff's letter can be read here.