First Day Back Recap Including Snow-Related Planning and COVID-19 Information and Notifications (1/3/22)

January 3, 2022

Dear Families and Faculty,

Happy New Year!  We are providing you a first day return to campus update, and later this week we intend to provide additional follow-up COVID-19 protocol information.

  • Faculty’s precautionary testing yesterday and today:  We want to express gratitude to our faculty for participating in DESE’s recommended precautionary testing yesterday and this morning. We also appreciated families’ flexibility with our 2 hour delay.  This precautionary screen identified only 1 instance of an asymptomatic positive result, which offered strong reassurance of our general attestation practices and our faculty’s diligent self-monitoring.

  • Additional COVID-19 Positive Test results over vacation and staffing:

    • Although faculty’s precautionary testing revealed reassuring results, the Milestones community was impacted by the recent rise in cases during school vacation.  Between Friday through yesterday, we received 9 additional notifications of individuals who tested positive during vacation. These individuals proactively tested during vacation when they experienced illness or were identified as close contacts outside of school (i.e., 8 faculty and 1 student).  None have been on campus during the period of infectiousness, which ruled out school-based contact tracing.  All are remaining off campus until receiving medical clearance to return.  We appreciate these individuals/families doing their part outside of school to insulate our school community on campus.

    • Like many Massachusetts schools currently, Milestones is navigating through challenges in light of the significant rise in cases. In addition to positive cases, we are also experiencing faculty absences in accordance with our daily health attestation criteria and for staff’s childcare/personal reasons.  We very much appreciate our collaborative faculty’s dedication and teamwork to support one another and our students during this period!

    • As you are likely aware, this school year DESE is not permitting schools to pre-schedule discretionary pivots to remote instruction, which Milestones very successfully pre-scheduled last year following Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  This school year remote instruction is only permitted for individual students who are directed to isolate or quarantine outside of school due to COVID-19 or if DESE and local Boards of Health direct schools or classrooms to pivot to remote for specific health or staffing reasons.

    • Families can be helpful by anticipating that our staff’s response time with replying to questions may take longer than usual, as our School Nurse, case managers, administrators, and faculty are balancing and prioritizing our on campus support to students and colleagues along with family communication.

  • Stay Tuned for Further Information Regarding DESE’s Revised COVID Protocols: Milestones’ Task Force and Leadership team are in the process of unpacking the new DESE guidelines with our consulting physician’s office, and we are awaiting further consultation from the Waltham Board of Health.  We want to ensure a diligent review and anticipate providing follow-up information by the end of this week.  In the meantime, families should please continue to follow our existing protocols including monitoring your students for symptoms, keeping your students home if they are showing signs of illness, and continuing to notify our School Nurse for direction on testing and school clearance needs.  Faculty will also be closely monitoring students’ presentations to send students to our nursing office if they present with symptoms.

  • Streamlining Communication Regarding COVID-19 cases:  We are opting to streamline our COVID-19 notifications this winter.

    • No longer issuing schoolwide automated voicemails for general COVID notifications:  Moving forward, we plan to reserve the use of our automated robocall voicemail system for urgent schoolwide updates (ex: snow cancellations/delays, scheduling changes, emergency notifications etc).  Toward this end, we will no longer issue a schoolwide automated voicemail when we are notified about positive cases.

    • Continuing Schoolwide Emails:  Instead, families and faculty will continue to receive schoolwide emails alerting you to positive cases.  We will continue to use a predictable subject line such as: “Milestones: COVID-19 announcement (Insert Date).”

    • Close contact Notifications:  If students or faculty members are identified as school-based close contacts, you will continue to receive individualized notification.  Close contacts who are exempt from out of school quarantine protocols will most likely receive an email notification rather than a phone call.  Non-exempt close contacts who are required to quarantine outside of school will be contacted by phone (with a follow-up email, if needed).  Close contact notification emails will also include a predictable subject line such as “Milestones: Close Contact Notification.”

    • Contact tracing teams: Since reopening onsite in July of 2020, Milestones has successfully conducted contact tracing with a small team of administrators and our School Nurse.  In anticipation of the potential rise in cases this winter, we trained additional leadership team members in December and assigned contact tracing teams to a rotational schedule. Each team will be directed by a lead facilitator who has been part of our original contact tracing process.  This means that families and staff may receive phone calls or emails from different administrators if you (faculty) or your student(s) are identified during the contact tracing process. As before, individuals’ privacy will be maintained among approved group members.

  • Snow Cancellation/Delays: This school year DESE is not permitting schools to conduct weather-related remote learning days. As a result, if Milestones needs to cancel school for inclement weather, any canceled days will be made up at the end of the school year in June. Milestones will resume our previous practice with aligning our weather-related decisions with the plans of Waltham Public Schools in accordance with our Family Handbook.   Our policy is as follows:

    • Milestones aligns our decision regarding whether to stay open, close or delay the start time of school due to snow with the decision made by Waltham Public Schools. The Waltham superintendent makes decisions surrounding school closings in collaboration with several safety offices and other superintendents in the area, and Waltham’s cancellation and delay information is broadcast on WBZ TV Channel 4, WCVB TV Channel 5, WHDH TV Channel 7, WFXT TV Channel 25, WBZ Radio AM 1030, and Waltham’s WE-TV. The Waltham district’s school website is later updated as soon as possible. Milestones will use our emergency call system to notify families of closings or delays once a decision has been confirmed by Waltham public schools, but families will be able to reliably anticipate Milestones’ decision at the earliest opportunity by following Waltham’s plans.

      • School Cancellation: If Waltham Public Schools closes due to snow, Milestones will close for the day.

      • One Hour Delayed Opening: If Waltham Public Schools announces a 1 hour delay, Milestones will open to students at 9:30AM.

      • Two Hour Delayed Opening: If Waltham Public Schools announces a 2 hour delay, Milestones will open to students at 10:30AM.

      • Early Closing: Please note that if there were ever to be a circumstance when Waltham Public Schools and Milestones decide to remain open but conditions worsen once the school day has started, Milestones would separately evaluate our plan for the remainder of the day. We recognize the great difficulty parents/guardians and transportation companies face when schools close unexpectedly early, so we would reserve our own discretion in such circumstances. In the event that Milestones were to determine for safety reasons that an early dismissal is warranted, we would contact all families to notify you about our need to close early and to ensure appropriate transportation and coverage for each student.

      • A note about transportation: Milestones recommends that families contact their local districts to determine if district transportation will be provided or delayed on dates when Milestones is open but a student’s local district is closed or delayed. In addition, Milestones requests that parents/guardians please notify our main office if students will be absent or have late arrivals. Our main office phone number is: 781-895-3200 and our email address for reporting absences is: absent@advancingmilestones.com.

Thank you for your attention as we’ve entered 2022!

Sincerely,
Kim