Letter to Newmarket school community 3/10/20
Dear staff, parents, and members of the Newmarket community
I am writing with an update to the message you received last night about today’s school closure and the self-quarantining of a Newmarket staff member.
As we received the information about our staff member late in the evening, I decided to close schools in order to provide the district with critical time to gather guidance from experts and to make a plan for next steps. As previously planned, students are not in class tomorrow as it is an all day Professional Development. School will resume as per normal schedule on Wednesday.
Coordination with the State Department of Education
I spoke this morning with Frank Edelblut, State Commissioner of Education. Commissioner Edelblut reassured us that the state was not aware of any specific risk from COVID-19 to any NH school communities. Should such a risk be identified in the future, both the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services will notify the district and will work with us collaboratively to address that risk.
Town Administrator Steve Fournier, Town Health Officer Michael Hoffman, and Fire Chief Rick Malasky joined school administrators in reviewing our current situation and coordinating plans for moving forward.
Coordination with the Department of Health & Human Services
Our administrative team held a conference call with Dr. Benjamin Chan, State Epidemiologist. Dr. Chan seconded the points made earlier by Commissioner Edelblut: The state is not aware of anyone in Newmarket School District (NSD) who would currently pose a risk of infection to members of our community. Should that situation change, DHHS will contact me and will work with us to identify appropriate next steps.
Dr. Chan reminded us of helpful information about exposure and quarantines:
- Most people who develop COVID-19 show symptoms within one week, with the range of days for appearance of symptoms being 2-14. (The NSD staff person under self-quarantine has passed the one-week mark, as they were exposed eight days ago. The staff member has shown no symptoms.)
- Asymptomatic people, including those under quarantine, do not generally pose a risk of infection to members of the public.
- Schools and school districts do not, therefore, need to take special steps when they learn of a community member who is asymptomatic and under quarantine. (NSD did take the precautionary step of closing school today in order to gather information and, out of an abundance of caution, to sanitize our schools and central offices.)
- The state has no recommendation that school districts cancel mass events at this time. Tonight’s basketball game will take place as regularly scheduled, and tomorrow’s town vote will proceed as planned.
- The state does recommend that we continue to promote preventive measures, such as staying home if sick, practicing frequent hand hygiene, and frequent disinfection of surfaces.
Professional Development Day tomorrow, Tuesday, 3/10/20
Again, tomorrow’s PD day for staff was already on the 2019-20 school year calendar. The agenda for tomorrow has been revised to focus on the continuity of student learning and contingency planning. While there is no current need for a longer-term closure of schools, we are taking this opportunity to review the district’s existing emergency preparedness plans. Staff and faculty will also be reviewing age-appropriate talking points for discussing COVID-19 and its prevention with students.
Resources for Families
We encourage families to seek information from reputable sources, including the following organizations:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- NH Department of Health and Human Services
- NH Department of Education
- National Association of School Psychologists
In particular, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), in conjunction with the National Association of School Nurses, has provided an excellent guide for parents and guardians when talking with children about COVID-19.
The health and safety of all members of our community continues to be our priority, and we will continue to provide you with information as it becomes available.
Susan K. Givens, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools