November 2, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer
There were "zero reported cases" of COVID-19 in the Hingham Public Schools last week, which Interim Supt. of Schools Gary Maestas called "a positive step for the [Hingham Public Schools] district."
In related business, he reported that a significant number of students have participated in either the COVID-19 "Test and stay" or pool testing programs, or both.
The "Test and stay" approach allows students who have been in "close contact" with another student or other individual within a school building who tested positive to be tested daily as opposed to having to quarantine right away. Tests are administered every day from the first day of exposure for at least five school days.
Maestas also explained that there has been a delay in the installation of software recently purchased by the Hingham Public Schools to help the district collect accurate vaccination data on students as it relates to the face mask mandate issued by Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley last August.
The software, which ties in directly with the state vaccination data base, will help school officials get an accurate number on how many students who are eligible to get vaccinated have done so.
Riley's mandate was recently extended for a second time -- until at least Jan. 15, 2022. The commissioner’s initial policy called for allowing middle and high schools to potentially lift the mask mandate for vaccinated students and staff only after Oct. 1 if they reached a certain vaccination threshold – that at least 80 percent of students and staff, combined, in a school building are vaccinated. This would be a local decision.
Speaking about the unexpected delay in getting the system up and running, Maestas said, "I'm not happy to be in this position, but at this point we're working with all the vendors involved to ensure we can get this information to the School Committee, the schools, and to the community." He attributed part of the delay to the recent storm.
In other business at the meeting:
- During a discussion about two planned school field trips, the Committee agreed, at the suggestion of member Tim Miller-Dempsey, to ask the policy subcommittee to discuss the possible implementation of vaccination requirements for students who would like to participate in school trips. Fellow member Michelle Ayer noted that some places students might visit may have vaccination requirements of their own already in place.
- Ayer reported that an education plan for Foster School -- crafted by Asst. Supt. Jamie LaBillois and Interim Foster Principal Jennifer Arnold -- was recently submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority as part of the town's application for potential partial state reimbursement for either a renovated or new school. "They said it was one of the best education plans they have ever seen," Ayer noted. "This project is going into high gear, and we will have a [related] website up and running soon."
- Students will vote on the composition of the HPS new student advisory committee, required under state law. Five Hingham High School students will be elected by their peers on Tuesday to represent the entire district, from elementary to high school. The student advisory committee will meet with the School Committee at least every other month throughout the school year to add student voices to the decision-making process. They will also meet with the principals of each school. "These are ambitious kids," Ayer said. "I'm excited about this opportunity."