School News: HPS Building Vaccination Data Base; School Committee ‘Office Hours’ to Resume; Naming By-Law Update

Photo by Joshua Ross

December 29, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer

The Hingham Public Schools is in the process of compiling a data base of vaccination information on students and teachers, Interim Supt. of Schools Gary Maestas reported at Monday's School Committee meeting.

He also explained that starting Dec. 17, school-by-school COVID-19 data related to the number of cases at each building will be shared every Friday for that week. "The numbers were low prior to that date, but they have been creeping up," he said.

Maestas further noted that dealing with, and compiling information about, COVID is a cumbersome task for school nurses and administrators, including testing and keeping track of close contact information.

"A lot of the close contact issues [related to students and other members of the school community who have come into contact with a COVID-positive individual] are coming off the weekends from outside of the schools," Maestas said.

The Department of Education recently notified public school districts that the "Test and stay" model for teachers has been pulled back. "We're now looking at [another] solution to be able to test our teachers in school," he explained.

The "Test and stay" approach allows students and teachers 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 in school every day -- from the first day of exposure for at least five school days.

With regard to vaccination data collection, Maestas said HPS is going to do another run from state data on the vaccination status of students in the district ages 5 to 11, and then for students ages 12 and above, to see what the numbers look like.

"We will do a new data run after the holidays and send letters to parents whose students don't show up on the data base [for one reason or another], asking them to submit that information if they choose to -- if not, it's their prerogative, but we will tell parents that their assistance would be much appreciated to get a more complete picture," he explained.
Starting next week, teachers will be asked to provide their vaccination status. "We should have a snapshot of the vaccination status of all our buildings by mid-January," he said. "The state looks at data by school building and not by district. We will work diligently to get this [task] done."

In other business at the meeting:

  • Phil Edmundson, chair of the Hingham Naming By-Law Committee -- formed by the Board of Selectmen earlier to consider changes to the town's Naming By-Law -- recently reached out to the School Committee and other interested groups asking that they provide written comments prior to Jan. 4 about the by-law as it now stands and related information. Verbal comments will be accepted at a public Zoom meeting on that date.
  • The earlier-approved Town Meeting Article 40 establishes the town’s process for the naming of public buildings and public lands. The Naming By-Law Committee is charged with assessing whether the Article, in its present form, serves the best interests of the town and making recommendations with respect to possible changes to better promote the interests of the town.
  • The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Here are the details:
    Naming By-law Committee Zoom Meeting
    Dial-in: 929-205-6099
    Meeting ID: 878 0661 7074
    Passcode: 1122

The School Committee is reinstating its "office hours" from last year on the first Tuesday of every month.

The purpose of these meetings -- the first of which is scheduled for Jan. 4 -- is to listen to community members' questions and concerns. This Zoom meeting will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. "Drop-ins" are welcome.

School Committee members Tim Miller-Dempsey and Michelle Ayer will host the January meeting. Whether a meeting will be held remotely or in-person in the future will be determined on a month-by-month basis.

More information will be provided closer to the date.

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