By Alex Malm
During the Nov.9 Londonderry School Board meeting the Board got a COVID-19 update from Superintendent Scott Laliberte.
“We continue to be challenged on an ongoing basis by cases,” Laliberte said.
One of the main items of discussion came when School Board member Greg DePasse said that he was concerned with the number of positive cases they’ve had lately in the schools and the fact that the community is considered in “substantial spread” for COVID-19.
DePasse said that one of his suggestions would be to modify the plan so if there is substantial spread in the community then they automatically go into universal masking.
“I’m getting really concerned about this,” DePasse said about the number of cases and students missing in person learning because of it.
School Board Vice Chair Sara Loughlin said that right now the matrix calls for universal masking due to the number of positive cases in the schools and wasn’t sure how it would be different.
DePasse said that right now it’s based on the number of cases in the schools and in classes and said that they have found that it’s been hard for staff to track all of it.
“As we’re getting more and more of these cases the burden on the administration, the burden on teachers is only getting worse,” DePasse said.
School Board member Bob Slater pointed out that even if they change the mask mandate they are going to continue tracking COVID-19 cases which is likely going to be ongoing for the rest of the school year.
Slater said that the policy should also be that any employees that work for the school district should be required to wear a mask at all, which was added to the vote.
School Board Chair Amy Finamore said that they have a lot of students who have been missing school, noting that one parent told the Board that while their child hadn’t tested positive for COVID they already had to miss 13 days due to quarantine.
She said that the change to the universal masking policy could be a good mitigation factor to limit learning loss.
The Board ultimately voted 3-2 in favor of having universal masking when there is a substantial community spread.
Following the meeting Laliberte wrote to parents and guardians stating “the primary statistic that will be used to determine the use of universal masking will be ‘Substantial Community Spread’ in the town of Londonderry, as indicated on the State Department of Public Health dashboard. At present, that spread is in the ‘Substantial’ range, which results in universal masking throughout the district. While this transition does impact many elements of our mitigation strategies, all other elements of the plan remain in place as written. However, where masking is no longer dictated by classroom contact, the option for students to ‘test out’ of masking is no longer available to them except for those students who have provided documentation of a medical exemption to masking.”
“As we continue forward, there will be more information forthcoming regarding some of the specific details around school operations, including procedures for indoor sports, building schedules, and a variety of other details currently under development,” the email went onto state. “With this change, the school buildings will also be changing their notification process to focus on those students who are exposed to a positive case, with a weekly school-wide case update that will coincide with our school district dashboard.”
Also during the meeting School Board member Nancy Hendricks asked if they are thinking about having a vaccination clinic for students.
Laliberte said that they are working on having one with schools in the region but having a local one is something they could look into.