Hadley School Committee gives updates on COVID-19

HADLEY – The Hadley School Committee met on January 24 and discussed the school’s vaccination rates as well as some important updates regarding COVID-19.

School committee member Tara Brugger opened the meeting by thanking the nurses at Hadley Schools for their hard work and effort during such a difficult time.
The committee then dove into the data of vaccination rates among college students. At Hopkins Academy, 87% of students are fully vaccinated, with eighth graders being the highest vaccinated class at 97%. Grades seven and 12 have the lowest vaccination rates in the school with 74 and 77 percent fully vaccinated, respectively. This did not mean more cases for the two years, as seventh graders saw only four cases of COVID-19 in senior 10.

At Hadley Elementary, nearly 43% of all students are immunized. This is the most recent group to be approved for the vaccine and the 11% rate for pre-K students brings the overall percentage down. Second graders in primary school are the most vaccinated group at 57%.
“We looked at vaccination rates last month and we also looked at the number of cases last month. There have most likely been 18 cases districtwide so far for this school year. Today we are at 115,” Superintendent Anne McKenzie said. “Between your school committee [meeting] on December 21 and this school committee meeting, it increased by almost 100 cases. With this in mind, parents have suggested we reconsider this, making pool testing a requirement for participation in extracurricular activities.

While at the time the superintendent thought this might be the best thing to do based on the numbers, the school committee eventually made it voluntary and is asking parents of students who participate in extracurricular activities to s sign up for the weekly pool tests. This is not mandatory, but in an effort to trace COVID-19 cases in the school with students participating in extracurricular activities, the numbers have just increased through the end of 2021.

“My daughter was quite pissed off to be surrounded by so many people coming down with COVID cases [-19]said Humera Fasihuddin, chairwoman of the school committee. “I think we just have to take as many precautions as possible because this is a global pandemic after all.”

Committee member Heather Klesch added that such requests were not meant to be set in stone for the rest of the year and that the committee will continue to adapt to the latest trends in case numbers during the pandemic. The school only asks students to participate in weekly tests, but participants in extracurricular activities will have no obligation to attend.

“We’ve had to roll with the punches for the past two years, and I think at every step we’ve maintained the safety, health and well-being of the community, our students, our faculty at the forefront. beware of that,” member Ethan Percy said. “I think as long as we continue to do that, I think we’re making the best decisions for this community.”

Percy applauded the work of the committee as they kept schools open and continued to have sports and spectators.

“As long as we continue to move the school in the right direction and operate as close to normal as possible, that’s what we’re looking for,” Percy added.

A latest announcement from the committee regarding COVD-19 introduced an opt-in program that provides access to rapid home antigen testing for students and staff. The program is completely voluntary and all families in the district have received a form. At the time of the meeting, there were already 113 families representing 171 individual students who registered, as well as 88 staff members. This program was announced by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) on January 18 and is supported by a contract with iHealth obtained by the Baker-Polito administration to provide 26 millions of tests, which are prioritized by schools and daycares.

Tests will be distributed to registered students upon arrival every two weeks. The kits come with two tests in the hope that in addition to the weekly pooled tests, families may have the option of using home tests. Families who have chosen to participate must report a positive test to the district to notify schools.

“It’s a wonderful program. The tests are hard to come by and they are also expensive,” McKenzie said. “This is free for staff families and so please if you are interested sign up.”