UPDATE: Families asked to comply with HPS travel policy with Spring break on the horizon

Photo by Ross Parmly on Unsplash

April 13, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer

Families with out-of-state travel plans during the upcoming Spring vacation week are asked to adhere to the Hingham Public Schools updated travel policy approved by the School Committee Monday night. Supt. of Schools Paul Austin will be emailing more information to parents this week.

The policy outlines what's expected of students returning from travel to other states for more than 24 hours following the Spring break, including quarantining or obtaining a negative PCR or pooled test result within 72 hours of returning to Massachusetts (See full policy below).

"This isn't a huge change from our Sept. 2020 COVID-19 policy," Committee Chair Kerry Ni explained. The purpose was to ensure the policy is consistent with changing state guidance.

“As the travel policy mirrors the governor's travel advisory, we expect that all staff will follow that advisory” as well, Austin told the Hingham Anchor in response to an email following the meeting.

The policy states in part that because the HPS absence policy remains in effect, consequences could be imposed on course credit if a student is required to quarantine for 10 days.

"Students and families are strongly urged to carefully consider out-of-state travel plans," the policy further states.

In discussing revisions to the travel policy, there was some talk during the meeting about possibly exempting students who can show proof that they have been fully vaccinated from quarantining and testing in accordance with the updated state advisory that those who are fully vaccinated are exempt from both.

While the end result of that School Committee conversation was that students could be so exempted by providing a copy of their full vaccination record, Austin told the Hingham Anchor after the meeting in an email that because that exemption was not referenced in the revised policy the School Committee had just passed, "We will expect everyone to either quarantine or test upon return from out of state travel of more than 24 hours."

Austin also explained in an email how the travel policy could affect student athletes. "The district expects that all people follow the governor's advisory rules," he said. "Any student who [would normally] 'tryout' after the school vacation will be held harmless [if they are unable to do so] if he/she is in quarantine because they are awaiting results of a COVID-19 test; have been identified as a close contact to a known person with COVID-19; or tested positive for COVID-19.  Once the student is able to return to school, he/she will be allowed to 'try out' at that time."

In an effort to ensure a safe return to school following the April break, HPS is offering free COVID-19 pool testing Friday, April 23, at East School from 8 a.m. to noon. "This is for anyone, not just those who have traveled," Austin said. If a result comes back positive, each person in the pool would be contacted and asked to return on Sunday for a free rapid COVID-19 test, with the results available within 15 minutes.

The mPathy COVID-19 testing site at 308 Cushing St. will be open Saturday, April 24, and Monday, April 26, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for anyone wanting to get tested and also on Sunday, April 25, exclusively for HPS students during those same hours. There is a fee for the test. To schedule an appointment, visit https://www.mpathy.org/schedule

Hingham Education Association President June Gustafson was on the line and asked whether HPS staff will have access to the April 23 pool testing at East School and the mPathy testing on Sunday, April 25. Austin confirmed that to be the case.

Austin also noted that for those traveling by airplane, immediate COVID-19 testing is available at Terminal C at Logan Airport using the Xpress Check service. No appointment is necessary. "There are lots of opportunities to get tested," he said.

Committee member Liza Reilly shared her thoughts. "I would hope that individuals would be concerned in the event that they are unknowingly carrying the virus that could affect others [and would be willing to get tested]," she said. "I would encourage everyone to get tested to protect everyone in their class, themselves, the staff, and the community."

Parent Suzanne Garland noted that while she went through the Logan Xpress Check and found it to be "super-easy," the cost per person was $220. "I just wanted people to be aware of the expense involved," she said.

That's a good reason to take advantage of the free pool testing on April 23 at East School. "You can test for free [if you go that route]," Austin said.

Committee Chair Kerry Ni encourages any family who has not yet granted permission for their children to undergo regular pool testing in their schools to do so.

Harbor Media filmed a public service announcement about the travel requirements, which will start running Tuesday.

"I hope families will read the travel policy and follow what we're asking folks to do," School Committee member Michelle Ayer said. "It's really important with April vacation looming, Hingham High students scheduled to return to school full-time April 26, and sports starting. We also want to keep the middle and elementary students in [full-day in-person learning as well]."

The revised HPS travel policy reads as follows:

"Recreational Travel & Mandatory Self-Quarantine Policy

COVID-19 Student Policy Update

This policy update explains what is now required of all Hingham Public School (HPS) District students and primarily impacts travel to other states. HPS students who choose to travel out of state for more than 24 hours for any reason must be aware that they may not be permitted to return to in-person school until they comply with the following:

If you plan to travel out of state for more than 24 hours at any time, we expect your cooperation in doing the following:

  • Inform the school office staff that you are traveling and provide a date for your anticipated return (A form will be available soon.)
  • Prior to a student’s return to in-person learning, have your student either quarantine for a period of 10 days or obtain a negative PCR or pooled COVID test within 72 hours of your return to Massachusetts.
  • Please provide a copy of a negative PCR COVID test result to your school nurse prior to your return to the classroom.
  • HPS absence policy remains in effect and the impact of the absence may impose consequences on course credit given that such travel will require the student to be out of school for an additional 10 days upon return.
  • Students and families are therefore strongly urged to carefully consider out-of-state travel plans.
  • Contact the Building Principal for information or any other related questions.
  • Students who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are instructed to not report to school."

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