Teacher burnout, contact tracing protocols, budget season and another comment window for policies

I gather some news about Northborough-Southborough Public Schools.

ARHS math teacher talks about Covid stress

Yesterday, local news outlets across the country shared a story about teachers across the country feeling drained from the ravages of the pandemic. An Algonquin math teacher was cited as an example. Mary Rose Steele, who taught at Algonquin for 22 years, was interviewed by journalist Chris Conte (an ARHS alumnus).

Like so many other educators, the high school math teacher is buried under a mountain of work and anxiety.

“If I stop and think about it, it’s worse than I implied, but I have to keep going,” she said. “There are days when I lay in bed and find it hard to get up.” . . .

She loves what she does, but the pandemic has proven exhausting.

Steele spoke about the impact the recent spike in Covid cases is having on her and the students as they head into midterm – which started this morning. You can see this interview here.

Speaking of the neighborhood Covid spike. . .

NSBORO tackles Covid Spike with changes to contact tracing protocols

127 new Covid cases were reported from Monday January 10 to Friday January 14.

On Friday, the director of welfare, Mary Ellen Duggan, sent a public letter to teachers and families at the schools. He discusses the situation and some changes in the administration’s handling of contact tracing given the spike:

After twenty-two months, we know that the course of the pandemic is constantly changing. We also know that many strategies to keep us at as low a level of risk as possible have not changed. From the beginning, we know that the following mitigation measures help minimize our risks:

  • Wear a well-fitting multi-layer mask
  • Distance as much as possible
  • Good hand hygiene
  • Stay home and test if you have symptoms

As the number of cases in our state, cities and schools continue to increase dramatically, it is imperative that we continue to use these strategies diligently. We cannot stress enough that it is essential to the continuation of our operations that sick students/staff, even with mild symptoms, stay home and contact the school nurse.

The past few weeks have been especially challenging for our schools, students, staff and families as we adjust to the influx of cases and changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Public Health (DPH), and Department of Primary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Given the enormity and scope of contact tracing within the community, local health boards are prioritizing contact tracing for those most at risk of adverse effects. It is now a public health expectation that people who test positive share this news with anyone they have been in contact with. Since the start of the pandemic, school nurses and city public health nurses have collaborated on contact tracing for our students/families both in and out of school. That hasn’t changed.

Two years into this pandemic, our school nurses have continued to diligently contact and notify our families of positive cases of COVID-19 within our school community. We have certainly reached a point where the origin of transmission is difficult to determine and we can assume that transmission could occur in the community, in households and also at school. Based on community transmission rates, we ask that you assume you have been in close contact with someone positive for COVID-19 and report to nursing care if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

As the virus continues to evolve, we must continually adapt our strategies. (Read more)

In the news outside of Covid. . .

Budget season is underway

Last week, the Community Advocate reported on Algonquin’s draft budget presented at a regional school committee meeting in December:

Northborough and Southborough Public Schools’ preliminary budget for fiscal year 2023 would include a 4.52 per cent increase from the current year, according to a presentation to the regional school board last month.

This translates to an increase of approximately $1.1 million for a total cost of just over $26.1 million.

“I want to emphasize that we are very early in the budget process and there are a lot of unknowns at this stage,” Superintendent Greg Martineau said Dec. 15. (find out more)

In Friday’s weekly message to the NSBORO community, Martineau explained the timing of the budget process. Following the presentation of preliminary budgets, recommended budgets are presented in January and February, with school committees taking their votes during these months. The agenda of the regional school committee for this Wednesday evening includes the presentation of the recommended budget for the 2022-2023 financial year.

Feedback solicited on revisions to NSBORO policy regarding leave for non-unionized staff

NSBORO school committees continue to seek public input before approving proposed new policies or implementing revisions to permanent policies.

The final batch under review has been placed on the December agenda of the coeducational school committee meetings. That means they could be put on the February or March agenda for a “second reading” vote. If you have any concerns that you want the committees to consider before implementing the policies, now is the time to voice them.

The commentary site includes a new policy for Southborough Public Schools:

  • Transportation of student staff by private vehicle – G-130 (This would prohibit staff from transporting students to or from the school/sponsored activity in their private vehicle without prior approval. An identical policy has already been approved for the high school.)

For all three districts, the committees will also vote on changes to six leave policies for district/school employees who are not part of a collective agreement:

  • Holidays for Full-time non-teaching staff Unaligned staff–G-210
  • days of mourning for Full-time non-teaching staff Unaligned staff–G-220
  • Personal days for Full-time non-teaching staff Unaligned staff– G-230
  • sick leave for Full-time non-teaching staff Unaligned staff–G-240
  • Short-term leave without pay for All-time non-teaching staff Unaligned staff–G-250
  • Family sick leave for All-time non-teaching staff Unaligned staff– G-260

To read the proposed changes to the policy or to submit a comment to the relevant school committee, click here.

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