vaccinated kids

March 2022 Refresher FAQ for Health, & Safety Guidance:

FOCUS

  • Multiple Layers of Mitigation: The best way to combat the spread of this virus is to implement a multi-layered approach, as each layer builds upon the others to reduce the probability of the spread of the virus. The most effective of those layers continues to be the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Remain Vigilant: Even if vaccinated, we all need to continue to implement all practices (see below) to stay home when sick and take care to protect both ourselves and our community.
  • Ongoing Monitoring & Support: As we enter another spring impacted by the pandemic, remember we are all doing our very best each day. Even as the data currently looks better, we are all operating with this underlying stress. As we have in the past, we will continue to rely on one another to keep COVID case numbers down. If you or your children over 5 have not yet been vaccinated, please consider doing so.

Refresher on Protocols & COVID Check Info

  • Positive students and staff must isolate & stay home for at least five days or until symptoms resolve (see test to return below)
  • Vaccinated close contact students and staff are exempt from quarantine, regardless of where the contact happens!
  • Unvaccinated close contacts from outside of school (at home, social gatherings) must quarantine and stay home for 5 days, are highly encouraged to test before returning, and must mask until day 11 upon returning.
  • All symptomatic individuals must stay home & get tested. A negative rapid test is acceptable to return if only symptomatic.

Test to Return & Useful Links

Any individual that tests positive must isolate for at least five days. If symptoms have fully resolved for at least 24 hours, individuals may return beginning on Day 6 and must test negative at school upon returning.

For full guidance & FAQ, go here: https://bit.ly/SPS-TTR

Masks & Mitigation

  • Daily Symptom Checks:  Please remember, daily symptom checks are an essential layer of protection to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses in school settings. If an individual has any symptoms of illness, they must stay home from school, contact their primary care provider, and then contact the school. If symptoms of Covid-19 are present, individuals will be required to test negative prior to returning to school and are asked to wait at least 24 hours until any active viral symptoms resolve.
  • Optional Masks: Beginning March 14, 2022, masking in our school buildings will be optional for students, staff, and visitors in kindergarten through grade 12.
  • Prekindergarten: All Pre-K students, staff and visitors will still be required to wear masks. This decision will be revisited on May 2nd by the Salem School Committee
  • Good Hygiene: Please remember to wash hands regularly & use good hygiene practices!

Salem Public Schools moved to mask optional for most grades on March 14th

What is happening with masks on March 14th?

Beginning March 14, 2022, masking in our school buildings will be optional for students, staff, and visitors in kindergarten through grade 12.

All Pre-K students, staff and visitors will still be required to wear masks. This decision will be revisited on May 2nd.

With the change in our mask policy, Salem Public Schools will support the choices made by families, students, and staff members on whether or not to wear a mask or face covering.

How will SPS staff monitor children whose families want them to continue to mask?

We kindly request that families understand and appreciate that school staff will not be responsible for ensuring students wear a mask at school. We encourage parents and caregivers to discuss with their children the expectations they have for masking or not masking while in school buildings.

Do students need to wear masks on the bus?

On February 25, 2022 the CDC announced that masking is no longer required on school buses or vans for K-12 students and children in childcare programs. As a result, effective Monday 3/14, K-12 students aboard SPS buses will follow the same optional masking policy in place for our school buildings, while Pre-K students will be required to remain masked on buses.

How do I best prevent myself and my family from getting COVID-19?

Your best option is to get the free vaccine. You can find a free vaccine clinic by going to https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ or check with your local pharmacy. Mass General Brigham has community vans at locations throughout the community. To find out their schedule, please visit https://www.massgeneralbrigham.org/find-get-care/covid-19-vaccination-centers and click on “view the schedule” to see the most up to date information. Another option is to keep an eye out for ParentSquare messages announcing free vaccine clinics at school locations.

Can students who test positive for Covid-19 and have no symptoms still return on day 6 if they wear a mask?

Yes, SPS will continue to follow our Test to Return program. To date, rapid antigen tests, or home tests, correlate closely with infectiousness. If returning to school prior to 10 full days of isolation, a student must be without symptoms and receive a negative result on a take home rapid test prior to returning to school.  At the earliest, this would be 6 days after testing positive. 

  • All individuals returning prior to 10 full days of isolation need a confirmatory one-time negative rapid test at school the morning they return. Therefore, individuals may ONLY return prior to 10 days if they have consent to test prior to returning. Students without consent cannot be tested so these students will need to be picked up if consent has not been provided.

Will there still be COVID-19 testing in our schools?

Yes. SPS has had a robust testing model for over a year. We will continue our weekly COVID checks (pooled testing) as well as sending each student with consent to test home with one rapid test each week. 

Signing up and consent for student testing

Please complete the consent materials online. If completing them online is not an option for you, please download and print this consent form if you’d like your student to participate in Covid-19 testing. Please deliver this consent to the front office of your school.

Do we still need to do a daily symptom check?

Yes. Please remember, daily symptom checks are an essential layer of protection to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses in school settings. If an individual has any symptoms of illness, they must stay home from school, contact their primary care provider, and then contact the school. If symptoms of Covid-19 are present, individuals will be required to test negative prior to returning to school and are asked to wait at least 24 hours until any active viral symptoms resolve.

Staff and Student Testing

At Salem Public Schools, keeping our students safe and in school is our top priority.

In consultation with our public health advisors, nurses, and community, Salem Public Schools has adopted an at-home testing option. In addition to our weekly pooled testing (PCR tests), this will add a second weekly test to our protocol.

Overview: At-Home Rapid Testing Program

About the Test: iHealth is a 15-minute at-home FDA-approved rapid antigen test. We will reshare instructions for using the test and a form to report a positive COVID-19 test result. We will also make these available on our website.

Opt-In: We will opt-in all students that currently participate in weekly COVID check testing at school. You can affirm this choice by opting in by completing the form sent to you through ParentSquare. If you do not see this form, please call the front office of your school. By opting in, you will agree to review the training materials for test administration, report positive test results to your student’s school, and administer the tests according to Salem’s guidelines.

  • If your student currently participates in weekly testing and does not want to add the second at-home weekly test option, you may opt-out through the form that was sent to you through ParentSquare.

Weekly: Every two weeks you will receive an iHealth at-home rapid test kit. Each kit contains two individual tests. Your student will administer one test each week on Sunday night or Monday morning before returning to school for the week. Those who participate in the program should test weekly, regardless of vaccination status or whether or not they are experiencing symptoms.
Students and staff that have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days will not receive a test until the 90 days window has passed.

Reporting Positive Test Results: If your student tests positive on an at-home antigen test, you will inform their school of the positive result using the google form we will share next week, or by calling the school nurse. The school will keep the results confidential and will not make individual results public. In addition, it is strongly recommended that you inform your healthcare professional of the positive result.

Easy, Free, and Flexible: This test is administered at home (not at school), reducing the burden on school staff and time to administer tests and increasing a family’s flexibility to do testing in the home for free.

We are encouraged that this program will be another step forward to support our staff and families with in-person learning as we shift to the longer-term management of COVID-19. As a result of these new testing protocols, once the test kits are distributed to students, the existing Test & Stay option and individualized contact tracing will only take place at the discretion of our nurses if there is a concern of potential spread in schools.

About Pooled Testing

Each student administers the safety check on a weekly basis. Samples are collected at school in groups of 5-10 individuals. Once the samples get to the lab, all the samples in the group are tested for COVID-19 together. Results take 24-48 hours, and individuals can continue to come to school while awaiting safety check results. If a safety check test is positive, the staff and/or students in the group will take individual rapid tests to determine which student(s) in the group produced the positive test.

  • Click here for a full “how to” written guide in various languages
  • Click here for a video of an individual self-testing

Signing up and consent for student testing

Please download and print this consent form if you’d like your student to participate in Covid-19 testing. Please deliver this consent to the front office of your school.

Electronic consent form
Printable consent form in English
Printable Consent form in Spanish

Weekly Covid-19 Checks is one layer of protection that helps us attend school in person safely.

  • It can quickly detect, trace, and isolate COVID-19 positive individuals. This will help us lower the risk of transmission and allow us to have more consistent in-person instruction.
  • Testing is quick and easy and is not painful or invasive and participating in the testing program is free
  • The program is voluntary but is strongly encouraged to help reduce the spread of COVID-19
  • Guardians need to sign a one-time consent form for their students to participate in pooled testing.
  • The testing process is fast, easy, and does not hurt. Here are some video examples. We recommend you use one of these or create your own featuring a school leader or student

Video: Science for Kids – Nasal Swab
Video: Watertown School Nurse taking a COVID-19 test
Video: Child Self-Swabbing
Social Story: What if I need to be tested for COVID-19? Developed by Community Autism Resources


Health and Safety

The health and well-being of the children in our care is a top priority for all of our schools.  If you have a specific concern or a health issue you wish to discuss confidentially, please contact your school nurse.

The goal is to ensure the safety of our staff and students and to minimize disruption to learning for our students and their families.

The complete Health Handbook for Students and Families can be found HERE in English and HERE in Spanish.


Full Isolation & Quarantine Guidance

Isolation & Quarantine Guidance: With the CDC’s recent shift in guidance regarding quarantine and isolation periods, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has also updated its guidance to districts. Given the unique environment of schools, in addition to the requirements from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Salem Public Schools will require a negative antigen test to exit isolation prior to Day 10 (Day 0 being the onset of symptoms or date of a positive test).

  1. Isolation: If a student or staff member has tested positive, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should isolate for at least 5 days from symptom onset or from the date of the positive test.
    1. Option 1: After the 5-day period has passed, if the isolating individual has been fever free and is not experiencing symptoms* for at least 24 hours, they may take an antigen Covid test at home (NOT a PCR-based or molecular test) to be eligible to return to school.
    2. Option 2: If staff and students are unable to access a rapid test (SPS will do our best to assist in providing access), the individual must have no fever or symptoms for 72 hours without the use of any medication.  
    3. For either option 1 or 2, individuals must test negative at school upon return. See below for further information.
    4. If individuals do not consent to the test, they must isolate for the full 10 days, in accordance with the previous guidance on isolation times from the CDC and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  2. Quarantine: When a student or staff member is a close contact in school, we utilize the “Test and Stay” (rapid antigen test) program for five days.  Previously, only unvaccinated individuals could participate in the testing.  Beginning next week, all vaccinated staff and students who are deemed close contacts will be able to take a test given what we have learned about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, and have the option to participate in additional testing.  As a reminder, unvaccinated close contacts that do not consent to participate in Test and Stay must quarantine and remain symptom free for at least five days.

Covid-19 General Frequently Asked Questions:

What should I do if I or my child tests positive at home (with or without symptoms) or I believe I/they may have Covid-19?

Do not come to work or school and stay at home.

Staff:

  1. Report your impending absence to your supervisor by your usual mode of communication.
  2. Call your primary care provider to inform them of the test results/symptoms and obtain instructions for isolation or quarantine.
  3. Inform your supervisor of your plan to return to work. *For Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave due to Covid-related illness, signed documentation from a licensed healthcare provider is required and must be provided to Human Resources. Please contact Dave Turcotte (978-740-1115) or Nancy Weiss (978-740-1115) for further information on these laws.

Students:

  1. Adult caregivers call the child’s primary care provider (PCP) to inform them of test results/symptoms and obtain instructions for isolation or quarantine.
  2. Notify your child’s school of your child’s absence and the plan for their return to school. *Signed documentation from a licensed healthcare provider for isolation requiring more than 5 school days is required and must be provided to your child’s teacher upon return.

Staff Caring for Sick Children/Family Members:

  1. Report your impending absence to your supervisor by your usual mode of communication.
  2. Call the sick person’s primary care provider (PCP) to inform them of test results/symptoms and obtain instructions for isolation or quarantine.
  3. Inform your supervisor of your plan to return to work. *For Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave due to Covid-related illness, signed documentation from a licensed healthcare provider is required and must be provided to Human Resources. Please contact Dave Turcotte (978-740-1115) or Nancy Weiss (978-740-1115) for further information on these laws.

How do we determine when Day 5 is to return to school?

Counting during COVID: It is important to know when to start counting days to accurately apply the new guidance, and it is not always intuitive. Please follow these steps:

  • Day 0 = day of symptom onset or positive test. We begin counting the next day.
  • Day 1 = first day after symptom onset or positive test.
  • Day 5 = required isolation for all positive individuals.
  • Day 6 = earliest possible day of return to school with a negative antigen test if an individual was positive or at least 72 hours symptom free.
  • Example: Positive test Wednesday (12/29), Day 1 = Thursday (12/30), Day 5 = Monday (1/3), earliest day of return is Day 6 = Tuesday (1/4) (the following week) after the positive test or the symptoms began pending Option 1 or Option 2 guidance below.

How do we know if an individual is “symptom free”?

To return to school, individuals must be without a fever or other symptoms without using any fever reducing or cold/flu medicine for at least 24 hours. Please review the list of COVID-19 symptoms below. We will be applying this to the best of our ability as a community. For example, if an individual is otherwise symptom free but still is a bit fatigued, this would be considered without symptoms if there is no combination of other symptoms. In addition, if all other symptoms have resolved and an individual still has not regained taste and smell, but this is not a new symptom, this would be considered ‘without symptoms.’

How do we apply Option 1 or 2 for an individual who was positive?

The CDC has reduced the recommended isolation time from 10 days to 5 days. Rapid antigen tests, to date, correlate closely with infectiousness. If returning to school prior to the full 10 day isolation period, SPS is requiring a negative rapid test to return to school OR three days symptom free. The days without symptoms can begin before day 5 but students cannot return until five full days of isolation, or on day 6.

  • Those who do not have a test must be symptom free for 72 hours. The 72 hours can begin on day one for those who are fully asymptomatic (but they cannot return before day 6).
  • All individuals returning prior to the full 10 days of isolation need a confirmatory one-time negative rapid test at school on the morning they return. Therefore, individuals may ONLY return prior to 10 days if they have consent to test prior to returning. We cannot give tests without consent so students will need to be picked up if they do not have consent.

How will testing work upon returning from isolation?

For staff returning from isolation before Day 10: Staff must complete an at-home rapid test and get a negative result to return prior to day 10 of isolation. Additional tests can be picked up at SHS on Sunday, January 2nd, from 11am-2pm. On Monday morning, please report to the isolation room at your school at least 20 minutes before students arrive to complete the iHealth test. You may leave before the 15 minutes are complete, and there will be instructions for how to leave the test. Testing team members will be there to read and confirm results.

For students returning from isolation before Day 10: Please remember no one can return to school prior to Day 6 (see above for how to count). If your student is between day 6 and day 10, students must have consent to test to return to school (Please click HERE to enroll in testing). If this is the case, please send your child to school with a note that includes the following information:

  • I am writing to inform you that my student was positive for COVID-19 over the winter break.
  • Date symptoms began or that the student was asymptomatic
  • Date individual became symptom free
  • Date of positive test

Students should be instructed to give the note to their homeroom teacher immediately upon arrival. The testing team is working with each school to ensure someone is there to support testing Monday morning. Students will be sent to the nurse’s office to meet the testers to get their confirmatory negative test.

What happens if an individual is vaccinated and has been in close contact with someone who is positive over winter break?

Vaccinated individuals who were home-based contacts over the holiday should use the rapid test Sunday night or Monday morning to determine whether they can return. If they are negative, they can return.

What happens if an individual is vaccinated and has been in close contact with someone who is positive over winter break?

Unvaccinated individuals who were home-based contacts over the holiday must quarantine for five days (returning on the sixth) with day zero being the last day of contact. If it is not possible to isolate from the positive case, day zero begins the day the positive would be released from isolation as indicated above. We strongly recommend using the rapid test on day five or six after exposure to test the unvaccinated close contact.

What if an individual has light symptoms but has not been able to get a test?

Please remember, daily symptom checks are an essential layer of protection to mitigate the spread of the virus. If an individual has any symptoms, they must stay home from school and contact their primary care provider first, and then the school. Individuals will still be required to get a negative test to return to school if symptomatic.

How can I consent for my student to participate in testing?

Please click HERE to enroll in testing. Please note, per the state guidance, consent is for all components of the testing program. SPS is not able to provide electronic consent to individual portions of the testing program. If students are not enrolled in the testing program, they must isolate for the full 10 days prior to returning to school in the event that they are positive.