July 9, 2021
Dear Springfield Public Schools Community Members:
I hope you and your families had a wonderful 4th of July weekend and are enjoying a restful summer!
On Thursday, June 24, 2021 we shared the draft document for our Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Service as guided by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). As of this afternoon, we have had over 100 community members share their thoughts and ideas about the return to schools in September. We look forward to hearing from more community members throughout the summer and encourage you to provide your feedback!
On Monday, June 28, 2021, the NJDOE released its first guidance document for school districts regarding the return to school in September 2021 (The Road Forward: Engage, Recover, and Reimagine Education in New Jersey).
In addition, at his daily press conference held on Monday, June 28, 2021, Governor Murphy noted that the state is anticipating updated guidance regarding mask-wearing from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and that the state would update its guidance accordingly. He also directly addressed the wearing of masks in schools, and his expectation that the state would allow districts the ability to make locally-informed choices regarding mask-wearing when schools reopen.
The current guidance from the NJDOE, CDC, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is being used to guide our decisions relating to health and safety measures for our school district. This guidance includes the following:
· “...mask use is encouraged for individuals who are not fully vaccinated” (NJDOE, The Road Forward, p. 5)
· “All schools should implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing.” (CDC, link, 5/25/21)
· “The decision to introduce, adapt or lift public health and social measures (PHSM) should be based primarily on a situational assessment of the intensity of transmission and the capacity of the health system to respond, but must also be considered in light of the effects these measures may have on the general welfare of society and individuals” (WHO, link, 6/14/21, please note this is a .pdf document and may appear as a download).
Along with that guidance, we are also closely monitoring our local data:
· On July 7, 2021, there were 14 positive cases identified in Union County, and the rate of transmission in Union County is the same as the state level, .89.
· As of July 4, 2021, 69% of eligible (12 and older) Union County residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
· On the COVID Activity report for the week ending July 3, 2021, our region remains in the yellow, or moderate category, with slight fluctuations in the indicators, but overall significantly lower in each of the indicators than in previous month(s).
Based on a review of the data and in consultation with our local health official, the district shall follow the following protocols during the remainder of the summer program (effective Monday, July 12th) and use this experience to guide our decisions for the opening of schools in the fall:
· Masks will be required for all individuals entering and exiting the school buildings, when transitioning between classrooms, and when participating in group activities (i.e. morning meetings or group activities).
· Masks will be optional for students and staff when seated in desks with the appropriate social distance, in office spaces, and in outdoor locations. We know that our younger students have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated, and we encourage parents to speak with your children about wearing the masks based on your family’s needs.
· No student or staff member will be required to remove a mask, unless the individual requires medical assistance.
· Based on guidance from local health officials, the NJDOE and NJDOH, the district may return to mandated mask-wearing; and we ask that children are prepared to be required to wear masks should that directive be provided and that the adults in the community recognize and respect any future shifts.
· As per the NJDOE, masks currently remain mandatory on all buses, based on federal CDC transportation guidelines.
As per the guidance provided by the CDC, we strongly recommend that individuals that are not vaccinated continue to wear masks at all times.
For parents of students eligible for the vaccine (FMG & JDHS), we are asking that you participate in an anonymous survey to help us identify the current rate of vaccination among our students. Your participation will provide valuable information relating to the opening of schools.
Thank you for your partnership as we work together to support learning in Springfield!
Cultivating compassionate and extraordinary learners.
Springfield Public Schools will challenge every student through meaningful, engaging experiences — empowering all students to flourish and contribute in an evolving world.