District Updates 9-24-21

Good afternoon Springfield School District families, students, and staff,

This is Dr. McLaughlin, the Superintendent of Schools. I apologize that my calls are becoming a daily occurrence. We have additional positive cases to announce, and I also want to give you a few other updates.

First, I can report that today we have been working through four more positive cases in our schools. Two of those cases are at Riverside Middle School and the other two are at Union Street School. As a result of today’s cases, we have approximately an additional 50 students that need quarantine. We also need to shut down a third classroom at Union Street School. At this point, the schools have reached out to all affected families.

Second, I said earlier this week that we were not seeing a trend which indicated that transmission was occurring in schools, but I also said that we would continue to monitor the patterns in positive cases. Based on our most up to date information, I think it now fair to say that we suspect there was likely transmission in one of the classrooms at Union Street. We also are starting to see some crossover between positive cases at Riverside. It’s hard to be definitive that these infections happened at school, but I at least want to acknowledge that I feel less confident in my previous statement about a lack of intra-school transmission than I did before. I apologize that I can’t be more clear cut, but I want to be as transparent as possible about what we do see.

Third, we have once again worked with our partners at Springfield Hospital and the Department of Health to increase the amount of timely testing. Over the last two days, quarantining students and their families were able to access two drive-thru clinics at the hospital. I want to thank both the hospital and the department for stepping up. Families are quickly getting back results which is really helpful. I can also announce that there will be another new drive-thru testing opportunity  at the hospital. This drive-thru testing is once again for quarantining students and their families and will be held on Tuesday September 28th from 8:00-10:30 AM. No appointments are necessary to access this opportunity.

Fourth, while we have had to close some classrooms at Union Street and Elm Hill this week, we are currently planning to have our schools open on Monday. Having said that, I also want you to be properly warned about what is possible. Some time in the near future I may need to temporarily close a school. I think that would happen for one of two reasons. 1. We believe that bringing students in could create a high level of risk of additional transmission. 2. Our team needs additional time to complete contact tracing to ensure that we are properly identifying and communicating with students and staff who need to quarantine. I don’t know if that is imminent, but it is possible. I just want you all to be aware.

Fifth, we continue to explore ways that the state can make things easier. In a previous message, I mentioned the possible changing of regulations to allow large scale remote learning (when needed). We are also excited to know that the state is currently working on a way to deploy rapid school based testing that could respond in a situation like this. The program would be based on the Massachusetts school testing model.

Finally, I want to make sure I say something that I hope is always understood, but something that I haven’t explicitly said in a while. We now have several members of our school community who have contracted COVID. We are thinking about each of them and hoping that all their cases are mild and asymptomatic. We care about the Cosmos family, and we want all of you to be happy and healthy.

Thanks again to our school teams. They are working relentlessly to track cases and communicate with families. I also want to send a special thanks to our hard working school nurses and principals. They are doing an amazing job under difficult circumstances.

With that, I will thank you for your perseverance through this adversity. I also hope that you and your family enjoy a relaxing fall weekend.

Hang in there Cosmos.