The Health Services team hopes that you’ve all had a great start to the new school year, and we are pleased to outline new, more streamlined COVID-19 protocols for 2022-2023. With COVID-19 vaccines now readily available, treatments accessible to those at higher risk for severe disease, and widespread availability of self-tests, The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) have continued to evolve their support and guidance for schools.
One of the most important strategies to minimize the spread of many communicable diseases is to stay home if you have had symptoms of illness within the previous 24 hours especially:
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Unexplained rash
- Fever greater than 100.0
- Head Lice
- Symptoms of Flu
- Symptoms of COVID-19
Going forward, COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools will no longer be issued by DESE. Instead, it will be issued by MDPH and the complete guidance may be found on their website.
MDPH COVID-19 Guidance for K-12 Schools (Summary)
- The rapid antigen test, such as a self-test, is preferred over a PCR test in most situations.
- Contact tracing is no longer required or recommended, regardless of vaccination status or where the exposure occurred.
- Universal masks are not required but may be recommended in certain situations.
- Those who choose to wear a mask, including those who are at higher risk, should be supported.
- MDPH encourages all individuals to stay up to date with vaccination.
- Individuals who report they were exposed to COVID-19:
- May attend school, as long as they remain asymptomatic.
- Those who can mask should do so until Day 10.
- Recommended to have a home test on day 6 or if symptoms develop.
- If an individual tests positive for COVID-19:
- Isolate for 5 days.
- Return to school on day 6 if asymptomatic, or symptoms improved and fever-free (without the use of fever-reducing medication) for at least 24 hours.
- Wear a high-quality mask day 6-10.
- If the person is unable to wear a mask and has a negative test on day 5 or later, they do not need to wear a mask days 6-10.
- If an individual has symptoms of COVID-19:
- If symptoms are mild they may attend/remain in school if they have a negative test.
- Best practice would also include wearing a mask, if possible until symptoms are fully resolved.
- MDPH recommends that symptomatic individuals have a second test within 48 hours if the initial test is negative.
- MDPH strongly recommends symptomatic individuals who have a negative test return to school.
- If the symptomatic individual cannot be tested, they should stay at home and return if they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and symptoms are resolving, or if a medical professional makes an alternative diagnosis.
- HPS continually works to ensure the ventilation system is in optimal working order.
- HPS staff encourages hand washing and appropriate cough/sneeze hygiene.
- The School Health Department will supply home antigen tests and in-school symptomatic testing for families and staff as needed for symptoms to those who opt-in/consent (see below for more information).
- There will no longer be a surveillance (pooled) testing program.
- As of August 1, 2022, the Town of Hanover no longer conducts a PCR testing program.
- There is no longer a town-based COVID-19 dashboard. You may refer to the Mass.gov COVID-19 Response Reporting site for state and local COVID-19 information.
- HPS will continue to consult with the Town of Hanover Health Department and MDPH for guidance if there are any concerning COVID-19 trends or outbreaks, as we do with other communicable diseases.
- Please refer to the HPS Website for additional information on school protocols for Staying Home from School due to illness.
Optional At-Home or In-School Testing
If you would like the option of having symptomatic testing at school or rapid antigen tests sent home upon request, a consent form (for in-school testing) and/or an opt-in form (for home tests) is required. To do this:
- Log into ASPEN.
- Look for the two workflows: “COVID-19 Take Home Test Opt-In” and “COVID-19 In School Testing Consent”.
- Click on “Initiate” and follow the instructions.
- Complete either or both of the workflows.
- Complete a new workflow for each of your children in the district.
- Individuals over 18 years of age, including students, may consent themselves.
Please note that DESE is no longer supplying test kits, and the testing program will remain in place as long as our current supplies last.
Thank you very much for your continued patience and cooperation. We look forward to a great year, and we wish you and your families good health.
Patricia Smith, BSN, RN, NCSN
Director of Health Services