Today’s two-hour delay in opening for all Westford schools was a mandated, state-wide directive issued by Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Jeffrey Riley. He made the announcement during a Zoom call to all school superintendents throughout the Bay State, who then relayed the information to parents and staff.
As WPS Superintendent Christopher Chew explained in his email to parents on December 30, “we are going to distribute the tests to staff Monday morning before students arrive.” Chew was referring to the cache of “at-home” test kits that were provided by Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to districts statewide.
Chew explained that DESE’s order was a necessary precaution to both: Make the tests available for staff members as another tool to stop the spread of COVID. AND, to allow time for staff members to procure and self-administer the test ahead of class reopening. But he iterated that “testing is optional and not required for staff to return to work.”
The email also laid out some ancillary information for parents saying, “We do not have the resources to provide every student with a rapid test.” Referencing an earlier set of protocols that was issued to parents, Chew cautioned “individuals stay home if they are not feeling well. We will follow all the testing protocols for symptomatic individuals and identified close contacts.”
But there is still uncertainty in the community. One common concern is the lack of home-tests available. “They are sold out almost everywhere,” said Kristi Bates, mother of two Westford Academy students. She, like many parents, had other concerns about the “close contact” clause within the language of the policy.
How far does the web of contacts extend? To quarantine or not? “Even the at-home test has limited effectiveness,” Bates said. Because people are not obligated to report the results. The updated information regarding quarantining for individuals identified as a ‘close contact’ is still forthcoming.” Chew wrote.
As Massachusetts recently marked its one millionth case of COVID, the clear and present threat pervades nearly every aspect of daily life. The threat looms so the precautions remain until further notice. Vaccines, masks, social-distancing and fresh, circulated air are part of a new global paradigm.