January 8, 2022
Dear HUUSD families:
Those of you who were tuned into the news yesterday evening or today have likely seen that the state is saying that there will be changes in how COVID-19 is managed in schools. We are being told that these will be formally announced this coming Monday, and expect even further details will be shared at the press conference on Tuesday. Information indicating many of the protocols that we have been following, such as weekly surveillance testing and contact tracing, no longer make sense given the transmissibility of the omicron variant. Our HUUSD team awaits the written guidance and will continue to work to make decisions that we believe best serve our school community. Thank you for your patience as we work to be nimble, yet methodical.
While we have honed our skills at adjusting to changes, that doesn’t mean that we don’t pause to carefully consider changes when they come before us. Important to understand is how these changes will impact our ability to safely operate our schools.
COVID TESTING We have been told that the weekly surveillance testing is not an effective tool for helping to contain the spread of COVID. The bulk of the cases of COVID-19 are identified through people who are not feeling well conducting testing when they become symptomatic. As such, our “Response Testing” program, where students and staff are tested at school as soon as they experience any symptoms, will continue. We ask that if students are sick, they do NOT come to school, but work with their school nurse to access testing otherwise.
We appreciate how challenging it can be to find antigen tests or get an appointment for a PCR test. Until that changes, HUUSD will also be offering, for staff staying home when symptomatic, the option to work with their school nurse to complete an antigen and (unless the antigen test is positive) PCR test. These will be conducted as “drive by” (keeping staff who are symptomatic out of the building). If you have access to other testing, we encourage you to use that. Our nursing staff will make this “drive by” testing available for symptomatic staff as best we can. HUUSD is taking this additional measure in an effort to keep our schools staffed and open.
The state has indicated that antigen tests will become more widely available (mailed directly to homes) soon. Until that happens, we will also continue to offer our limited supply of antigen tests to staff or students who need them to end a quarantine (if they are positive for COVID-19). Additionally, until the state plan of Tests for Tots, which makes antigen testing more widely available for prek students, is fully operational, we will be providing antigen kits to the families of symptomatic preschool students. Our team is carefully evaluating the resources available to us and how we can deploy them to best support our school community.
Our Test to Stay program remains suspended for the coming week. Once we receive updated guidance from the state in writing, our team will review it and determine how HUUSD will move forward.
** Monday 1/10 will be our last day of surveillance testing.
CONTACT TRACING Contact tracing in schools will also change. The state ceased contact tracing for the general public several months ago. Schools were asked to continue, but have found that spread occurs much more through contact outside of school than within the school, calling to question the efficacy of the contact tracing protocols. Going forward, we have been told that we will be asked to notify households with a student in the same classroom(S) where there has been a positive case. We are already exploring how we can use our alert notification system to effectively make these notifications. Going forward, only those who are unvaccinated are asked to quarantine if exposed to COVID-19 (see here).
There is no question that there will be much to work out as we support families, and ourselves, in implementing this new guidance. Just as before, masks and staying home when symptomatic continue to be our top preventive measures.
KN95 masks are available to all staff. We have ordered child size Kn95s and will be making Kn95s available as an option for students once we have these additional supplies. Multi-ply masks are highly recommended.
As we speak with colleagues around the state and the nation, it is clear how fortunate we are here. Our successes are built on our systems, strong teamwork, our ability to listen to and support one another, our ability to keep our sense of humor and humility. Thank you for your fantastic work and collaboration as we find our way forward together.
Allison Conyers, HUUSD COVID coordinator
Kaiya Korb, HUUSD building based COVID administrator
Brigid Nease, HUUSD superintendent of schools