Health and Safety Information for the Fall

September 15, 2021

Dear Families and Faculty,

It was a pleasure to welcome our students and faculty back to campus last week after returning from our end of summer vacation period.  We had a very positive first week back!

As you’re aware, Milestones has been very safely and effectively operating onsite for over 14 months since Massachusetts schools were first permitted to reopen onsite in July of 2020.  Since resuming onsite instruction, we have had zero instances of COVID-19 transmission at school and we continue to observe extremely high cooperation with and support from our families, faculty, and students regarding our safety protocols.   In addition, our Reentry Task Force continues to meet at least weekly to review evolving guidelines and select Task Force representatives continue to serve on Reentry and Nursing advisory committees with the Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (maaps).

Below is an update of what you can expect this fall for continued mitigation measures at Milestones.  Protocols will continue to be evaluated on a regular basis and are subject to regulatory changes.

  • (1) Indoor Masking:  Milestones will continue to follow our practice of universal indoor masking for all faculty and students regardless of vaccination status for the foreseeable future.  As before, masks are not required outdoors or while eating/drinking indoors.  Universal indoor masking remains consistent with the current recommendations set forth for schools by the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics.

    • Background: As we announced in early August, Milestones opted to continue a universal indoor masking practice for faculty and students this fall regardless of vaccination status.  In late August, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) updated its initial guidance to similarly require universal indoor masking at all schools for the month of September. (Note: All Milestones staff follow indoor masking and we observe very high compliance with students’ mask use.  DESE specifies a policy exception for individuals who cannot wear a mask for “medical” or “behavioral” reasons.  Staff remind students throughout the day to wear masks properly in indoor settings). As of now, DESE anticipates permitting schools that have 80% or more of faculty and students fully vaccinated to have the option to allow vaccinated individuals to go unmasked beginning in October but will continue to require unvaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors.  Milestones opts to retain a more conservative universal indoor masking practice at this time regardless of our schoolwide vaccination percentage.

  • (2) Daily Health Attestations:  All families and faculty will continue to complete the same daily health attestation forms you are familiar with for clearance at school.  As before, forms must be submitted each morning and students are not permitted to enter school if we do not receive a current form. Students and faculty who do not pass attestation criteria should continue to stay home and notify our school nurse (Lyn Ross: and 781-895-3200 ext. 137) for further guidance.

    • Background: Beginning in August, DESE in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) issued revised attestation criteria for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in schools. Given the increase in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts including breakthrough cases, Milestones opts to begin our fall programming with adhering to the same attestation criteria we have followed all summer for all faculty and students regardless of vaccination status. This decision will continue to be evaluated.

  • (3) When Virtual Instruction Is and Is Not Permitted:  Milestones will approve individual students to participate in live synchronous instruction only if they are isolating or quarantining due to COVID-19.  In our setting, this includes 2 scenarios: (a) if a student tests positive for COVID-19 and is therefore required to isolate outside of school or (b) a student is identified as a close contact who must quarantine outside of school. In these circumstances, students may participate in live synchronous instruction if they feel healthy enough to do so.  DESE requires students to participate for at least half of a school day’s activities to be marked as present.

    • Background:  DESE no longer permits full time remote learning programs to count toward structured learning time requirements (unless previously authorized by DESE for individual medical reasons such as a student who requires home-hospital tutoring). Thus, we are no longer permitted to offer daily remote instruction more broadly.  DESE specifies that remote learning may be approved: “Only in the limited instance where students are isolating and/or quarantining, as described in the SY22 protocols issued by DESE and DPH, if schools have the ability to allow students to join their schedule remotely, then they may do so.”  Milestones has technical resources available to provide virtual access for students who are required to isolate or quarantine.

  • (4) Cohorts: Similar to last year, students are remaining in assigned cohorts for classroom instruction and faculty rotate to classrooms, as indicated.  As before, some middle and high school students follow approved hybrid schedules based on their individualized academic programs, and age-appropriate cohorts in elementary, middle and high school are paired during recess/social leisure times for social and therapeutic benefits.

    • Background: DESE does not require schools to cohort for the 2021-2022 school year.  Milestones opts to continue this mitigation practice for risk reduction.

  • (5) Distancing:  Classroom desks and tables are set up to maintain a minimum of 3 feet of distance, which extends our successful practice from summer 2021 during instructional activities.  Post High School students are permitted to eat outdoors (weather permitting) with faculty supervision, when directed by Transition Program Managers.  Other grades eat indoors in structured supervised settings.  Students are regularly reminded to practice social distancing throughout their school days to the extent possible during group-based activities (ex: PHS cooking, internships, technology activities, community based instruction, PE, and/or social leisure).

    • Background: DESE does not require capacity or distancing restrictions for the 2021-2022 school year.  Milestones opts to exceed state guidelines.

  • (6) Ventilation:  Milestones is continuing to utilize air purifiers throughout the school. Our building’s ventilation system was upgraded last year to exceed state recommendations for risk reduction (ex: MERV-13 air filters and increased air flow exchanges), and our Building Management adheres to scheduled maintenance.

  • (7) Cleaning, Disinfection, Hand Hygiene:  Milestones is continuing to contract with a 3rd party vendor for nightly cleaning and disinfection (Monday-Friday) and continues to offer increased custodial cleaning throughout the school day.  We continue to outfit classrooms with substantial cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer and maintain contactless sinks to promote healthy hand hygiene.

  • (8) Medical Isolation Room:  Milestones is continuing to reserve a medical isolation room separate from our nursing office, if students are identified as ill or exposed at school and are waiting to be transported home.  This practice is recommended but no longer required by DESE.

  • (9) Restricted Visitor Policy: Milestones is continuing our restricted onsite visitor policy, which exceeds state guidelines.  During school day hours, we permit only onsite visitors who have progressed in our Admissions process (i.e. limited group size) and those who are approved by contractual obligations (ex: District representatives and DESE) or are necessary for business needs (ex: maintenance, emergency personnel, etc).  Visitors are required to wear masks indoors and to complete daily health attestations.  Parents/guardians/babysitters should continue to please drop off students in our van line/drop-off area or walk them to our lobby doors.

  • (10) Virtual Team Meetings/Events:  IEP meetings, Parent Advisory Group meetings, and Community Events will continue to be held virtually.

  • (11) COVID-19 Vaccination:  For the safety of our full school community, vaccination for staff and eligible students is very strongly advised by Milestones and at both the state and federal level.

    • 96.5% of Milestones’ 86 staff are fully vaccinated with documentation on file, which significantly exceeds Massachusetts vaccination rate.

    • We strongly encourage all families with students who are 12+ to proceed with vaccination, and encourage families with younger students to proceed with scheduling vaccinations when your student(s) becomes eligible.  Families should please submit a copy of your student’s vaccination card to our school nurse, if you have not done so.  Please contact our school nurse if you would benefit from assistance scheduling a vaccination appointment or have questions about vaccination, and stay tuned for more information this fall regarding vaccine education opportunities at Milestones.

  • (12) No Onsite Testing:  During the 2020-2021 school year, Milestones announced to faculty and families that our Task Force and Board of Directors opted not to pursue onsite pool testing at Milestones.  Although testing is critical for identifying and preventing the spread of COVID-19, we once again reaffirmed our decision for all COVID-19 testing to occur offsite this year.

    • Background: For the 2021-2022 school year, pool testing for routine screening purposes is recommended by DESE and the CDC only for individuals who have not been vaccinated.  Data from Massachusetts schools that implemented pool testing in 2020-2021 reflected very minimal positive cases.  An important consideration for Milestones is that our student population is heavily impacted by sensory dysregulation and disruptions to our academic school day routines.  The extensive logistics involved with routine screening testing could impact our students’ focus during onsite instruction. Milestones continues to adhere to conservative safety protocols including requiring offsite individual PCR testing for school clearance when testing is warranted and requiring nonexempt close contacts to fulfill quarantine durations and testing outside of school rather than participate in onsite “test-and-stay” protocols.

  • (13) Covid Response Protocols:  In collaboration with the Waltham Board of Health, Milestones maintains robust within-school contact tracing practices, and we follow or exceed all DESE/DPH protocols for responding to positive cases, symptomatic individuals, and identified close contacts. Several important highlights from our present practices include:

    • New Setting Distinction for Contact Tracing At Schools:  DESE/DPH updated contact tracing requirements (summer 2021) to include only indoor exposure time at school.

    • Reminder that Quarantining Requirements Differ for Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated Close Contacts: DESE/DPH are continuing their protocol from the spring (2021) that unvaccinated close contacts and symptomatic fully vaccinated close contacts are directed to quarantine and test outside of school.  However, asymptomatic fully vaccinated close contacts who have documentation on file with our school nurse are not required to quarantine outside of school.

    • Milestones Quarantine Duration Remains Stricter than DESE/DPH Protocols:

      • Consistent with our policy in 2020-2021, if a close contact is required to quarantine outside of school, Milestones requires a minimum quarantine duration of 10+ days from the date of last exposure if one has not developed symptoms.  We do not accept a shorter, 7+ day quarantine period regardless of testing.

      • PCR testing is recommended on day 5 or later.  Milestones only accepts PCR testing (not rapid testing) for school clearance.

      • If a student is unable to conduct active symptom monitoring as described in DESE/DPH protocols, DPH/Waltham Board of Health advises a stricter quarantine of 14 days.

      • Reminder: Please continue to notify our school nurse regarding all positive cases and close contact exposures.

  • (14) Travel:  Because Massachusetts does not currently have state-specific travel guidelines, Milestones is not implementing a travel requirement at this time.  However, we strongly encourage faculty and students to attend to and follow the most current CDC guidelines regarding travel, which distinguishes guidance for fully vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals.  Massachusetts links this guidance here:

    • Fully vaccinated: Currently, fully vaccinated individuals are not directed to test or quarantine after domestic travel.   However, fully vaccinated individuals are advised to test 3-5 days after international travel and to self-monitor for symptoms and isolate if symptoms develop.

    • Unvaccinated: Individuals are recommended to delay travel until they achieve full vaccination status. However, if unvaccinated individuals do travel domestically or internationally, they are advised to follow both testing and quarantining practices outlined in the link above.

  • (15) Transitions Programming/Community Based Instruction:  A key component of our programming includes college and career readiness instruction for all Post High School students and community-based activities for both PHS and select High School groups. Milestones students and faculty are continuing to participate regularly in offsite group-based instructional activities.  Masks are expected to be worn indoors at all times (Milestones’ practice) and on school vans, per a federal mandate. In anticipation of when offsite internships become available, individual families will have the option to  “opt out” of having their student participate in an offsite internship to pursue an onsite internship instead, by request.

  • (16) Sensory Room/PE/Art/Music:  We have reopened the use of our Gymnasium, under the direction of our PE teacher.  The supervised use of our sensory rooms will also be permitted, under the direction of therapeutic staff.  Art and music programming will continue this year, with most activities taking place within students’ classrooms.

  • (17) Lockers:  We reopened the use of student lockers this fall.  This practice is being thoroughly previewed and directed by our therapeutic staff.

We appreciate you taking the time to review our updated health and safety guidance.  Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any further questions, and we look forward to seeing parents and guardians at our  virtual Back to School Night on Thursday, 9/30/21.  Please stay tuned for additional information from your case managers regarding this event, and we look forward to a strong year ahead!

Kim and the Milestones Task Force