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NEW Covid Protocols & Updates - January 9, 2022

Sunday, 1-9-22 DPS COVID-19 Update

Hi Folks,


I am providing this update as we begin our second week back after the December break.  District leaders have had many discussions over the weekend about how to best plan for the multiple challenges we have encountered.  These COVID-19 protocol updates are effective immediately and will be revisited weekly as we navigate the next few weeks.  Every school in Dedham had multiple positive COVID-19 cases last week.  Data regarding positive COVID-19 cases may be found HERE.


Update Highlights:

  • School-based pooled PCR testing will continue for all consented students and staff at all schools this week.
  • Effective immediately, all positive COVID-19 test results for students or staff need to be reported on the DPS Positive COVID-19 Test Result Report Form
  • Effective immediately, DPS nurses and administrators will no longer be conducting contact tracing for every positive COVID-19 test.  Therefore, the “Test & Stay” option for students will be phased out once students currently participating complete their testing cycle this week.


School-Based Pooled PCR Testing

  • Pooled PCR testing for all consented staff and students will continue at all schools this week.  
  • Testing pools will be reduced in size so that no more than 5 people will be in each pool.  This will help us contact and re-test fewer people from any positive pools that are returned.
  • Schools will revert to their typical Monday or Tuesday testing days, but it is VERY likely results will be delayed due to staffing shortages at the processing lab.  We anticipate a 36-48 hour turnaround time.
  • Nurses and school administrators will focus on identifying positive individuals within positive pools through follow-up rapid testing.
  • Students and staff are urged to participate in pooled testing.  If you have not yet provided consent, you must do so in order to participate.  Consent forms are simple to complete and are available HERE.  Remember, individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days should NOT participate in pooled testing.



Positive Student and Staff COVID-19 Case Reporting and Contact Tracing

If staff or students test positive for COVID-19 through any type of test, staff or parents should complete the DPS Positive COVID-19 Test Result Report Form.  This new form will collect all critical information in one place.  This form is on the main district webpage and on all of our school websites.


Effective immediately, school nurses and administrators will no longer complete contact tracing on every positive COVID-19 case.  This aligns with current trends, as public health departments are no longer conducting contact tracing in the community when positive COVID-19 cases are reported.  


The efforts of our school nurses will be focused on identifying positive cases from pooled tests and attending to the daily needs of all students in our schools, especially those students with already complex daily medical needs.  When case volume and workload permits, the district will revisit contact tracing and communication protocols.


Students currently participating in the “Test & Stay” program will finish their testing cycle this week. Beginning tomorrow, since contact tracing will not be conducted, the “Test and Stay” option will no longer be available.


Given the high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in the Dedham community and the schools, all students and staff should consider every interaction as though those involved are COVID-19 positive.  This means following all layers of COVID-19 protocols (mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing/sanitizing, window ventilation, and classroom HEPA filter use) to minimize transmission risk at all times.  



What can you do to help?

Get vaccinated and boosted.  If you haven’t done so already, all eligible students and staff should get vaccinated and boosted right away.  Use the MA Vax Finder website to schedule an appointment NOW.


STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK OR HAVE EVEN SLIGHT SYMPTOMS.  Do NOT send your child to school if they have any symptoms.  Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
  • Sore throat when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea when in combination with other symptoms
  • Headache when in combination with other symptoms
  • Fatigue when in combination with other symptoms
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms

We continue to follow the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) revised guidance for isolation and quarantine for COVID-19.  


As noted in the guidance, COVID-19 positive cases require 5 days of isolation provided individuals are asymptomatic or have reducing symptoms (no fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication).  


Therefore, staff or students who first developed symptoms (or tested positive) prior to Tuesday, January 4 may return to school on Monday, January 10.


District Staffing

Many aspects of our district’s operations are currently impacted by staffing challenges.  In addition to classroom educators, these areas include transportation, food services, custodial/maintenance, administrative assistants, paraprofessionals, nurses, and district/school leadership.  We have been able to redeploy staff and cover essential functions so far, but this has not been without considerable difficulty.  Please know that we are doing everything we can to safely keep our schools open for in-person learning and we all need to do our part to safely keep this going.


Thank you for your continued support, patience and understanding as we make our way through this latest surge.  I will keep you updated as new information or guidance becomes available.


All my best,


Mike Welch