Campus & Community Safety Plans
Fall 2021 at DCD
Fall 2021: DCD’s Plans for Campus Opening & Community Safety
Like many, we had hoped that the 2021-22 school year would be more of a full “return to normal”. However, the evolving nature of the pandemic, driven by the rise of variants, requires that we maintain a number of safety layers even as we resume a classroom-based (rather than pod-based) model. As you will see in the information that follows, DCD will require indoor masking for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus (outdoor masking will not be required in all settings); ongoing COVID testing; social distancing in classrooms where feasible; daily symptom monitoring at the start of school; lunch served by grade rather than in the Lawrence Room; and some limits on interactions through grade-based pods.
At the same time, much of our campus has returned to its pre-pandemic use and layout. In addition to classrooms resuming their customary spots, the Primary Gym, Lowell Center, and Technology Center have all return to their original functions.
The plans described here will be in place for the early fall, and we will stay responsive to trends in the pandemic and updates to the science to help guide our ongoing response. As changes to these plans are warranted, we will send new communications with updates. One of our great strengths as a community last year was our ability to stay current with the data and stay nimble in what we were able to offer students. We’ll do the same this year regardless of whether the pandemic requires us to amplify our layered protections or if it makes some of the protections unnecessary.
DCD’s success in pivoting first to distance learning in the spring of 2020, then to a pod-based learning model for the 2020-2021 school year, and now to our “semi-normal” approach to the current year, has been completely dependent on our incredible partnership with families. Everyone’s willingness to alter routines, and sacrifice for the common good, has enabled DCD to provide a rich and vibrant experience for our students throughout this difficult period – and will be the key to another successful year ahead. Thank you for your continued partnership on behalf of our students!
Maintaining Community Health and Safety
Below we describe the key elements of DCD’s plans for the 2021-2022 school year to help ensure a safe school environment, and we ask for your partnership in ensuring compliance with these protocols as well as all state safety guidelines.
Indoor Mask Requirement
Pursuant to the latest guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE), everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Studies have shown that universal masking is one of the most effective ways to minimize transmission. Masks will not be required at all times outside, but may be necessary for some types of larger gatherings and activities. Students may bring a mask of their choice, and we suggest 2 or 3 ply surgical or cloth masks. Gaiters, bandanas or masks with built-in respirators do not meet our masking requirements.
All students, faculty, and staff were required to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test result prior to the start of school. In addition, in order to provide additional layers of protection against the spread of COVID-19 this school year, DCD is participating in the state’s in-school COVID testing program. This program has three components: symptomatic testing for students who show symptoms of COVID-19 at school, routine COVID safety checks to prevent the spread of the virus undetected among students who are not showing symptoms, and test and stay for students who may have been exposed while in school but are not showing symptoms.
While we are not requiring students to be vaccinated, we strongly encourage all eligible members of the community (ages 12 and up) to get a vaccination, as science clearly demonstrates that vaccines are the best way to prevent serious illness after exposure to COVID-19. As part of our commitment to community safety, DCD has instituted a vaccine requirement for all of our faculty and staff. Those who are not vaccinated (for medical or religious reasons) will participate in weekly COVID-19 testing.
MyMedBot Symptom Tracking
Initially, all families will be required to complete daily symptom tracking on the MyMedBot app, and must show the green clearance screen at morning drop-off. As the school year progresses, we will reassess whether to continue this tracking.
We have returned to classroom-based learning, with a grade-level pod structure in preK – 5th grade. Middle school students, many of whom are vaccinated, will spend limited time outside their grade level pods for outdoor athletics and small group middle school art electives. In making this decision, we weighed the program benefits with the limited risk, and decided that we could safely resume both athletics and middle school art electives this fall. This will enable students in each grade to interact with each other throughout the day, and will help minimize disruption to the school in the event of a positive test or exposure (any quarantine would be limited to all or part of the grade, rather than the broader community). Outdoor activities at all grade levels, including recess and athletics and will continue to permit cross-grade interactions.
Lunch by Grade
Given the risks posed by current transmission levels of the COVID variants, especially to our youngest students, we do not plan to open the Lawrence Lunch Room for family-style dining this year. Similar to last year, lunch will be served by grade level – outdoors whenever possible, and inside when weather requires. We have worked with our partners at Flik to add greater variety to the lunch offerings this year, and also have developed plans to improve the overall “mobile dining” experience.
DESE has eliminated any need for social distancing from their protocols. In an abundance of caution, we will continue to maintain social distancing where feasible.
Updated Health Policies
Consistent with new government guidelines and in consultation with our medical experts, our Health Office has updated DCD’s Health Policy for the 2021-2022 year. Please review it here. As mentioned above, DCD has been accepted into the new state COVID testing program, which establishes a “test and stay” protocol to allow close contacts and others to remain in school as long as they maintain negative test results. This program will largely eliminate the need for quarantine in the case of close contacts.
While we must continue to limit visitors to campus, parents or guardians that need to enter the building quickly (for example, to use the restroom or drop off a forgotten instrument) are welcome to do so, but must remain masked at all times while inside.
Limited numbers of visitors will be allowed on campus, provided they have an appointment, wear a mask at all times, and are fully vaccinated (non-vaccinated individuals can participate in approved outdoor activities).
Volunteers on Campus
Everything You Need to Know for the Start of School
School Calendar Highlights
While we have published the school calendar for the full year, we recognize that changes may be needed regarding events and other activities as we navigate another atypical year. Some key dates for the fall of 2021 are as follows:
- October 15: No School – Parent/Teacher Conferences
- October 20: 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting Program
- October 21: 2021 Annual Meeting In-Person Outdoor Fall Celebration
- November 11: No School – Veterans’ Day
- November 24-28: Thanksgiving Break
- November 29: No School – Professional Development Day for Faculty & Staff