Petition Hamilton and Wenham Boards of Health to Revise COVID 19 Metrics

Petition Hamilton and Wenham Boards of Health to Revise COVID 19 Metrics

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Kristen Danaher started this petition to Hamilton Board of Health and

This petition addresses three actions we believe must be taken by the Hamilton and Wenham Boards of Health and our School Committee with respect to the COVID 19 Metrics for HWRSD.

Adopt the Metrics Promulgated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

First, we respectfully request that the Hamilton and Wenham Boards of Health amend the “COVID 19 Metrics for HWRSD” to adopt fully, and without modification, the metrics set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on August 11, 2020 (the “State Metrics”).

In its “COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry” publication dated August 19, 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”  However, the Hamilton-Wenham Boards of Health have unilaterally adopted the opposing position and have created excessive barriers to returning our students to school without a reasonable, compelling, or public explanation for having done so.

Furthermore, when issuing the State Metrics, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey C. Riley said in his “On the Desktop – August 11, 2020 Guidance for Districts and Schools on Interpreting DPH COVID-19 Metrics” publication, “[i]t is our expectation that districts’ learning models will follow this color-coded metric unless there are extenuating circumstances identified after consultation with local boards of health.”   

The Hamilton-Wenham Boards of Health have failed to identify any extenuating circumstances that would inform a need to adopt metrics that are significantly more restrictive than the State Metrics.

And yet, the COVID 19 Metrics for HWRSD significantly exceed the State Metrics without justification, other than a desire to be “conservative”.  At the same time, we do not live in a community where population density, housing considerations, public transportation systems, etc. justify the need for more stringent requirements. 

Accordingly, the Hamilton-Wenham Boards of Health should adopt the State Metrics which track the average daily case rate per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, with color-coded representations as follows:

·  Red: more than eight cases per 100,000 residents
·  Yellow: four to eight cases per 100,000 residents
·  Green: fewer than four cases per 100,000 residents
·  Unshaded: fewer than five reported cases in past two weeks

Corresponding to those metrics, districts coded red should use remote learning; districts coded yellow should utilize a hybrid model, or a remote model if extenuating circumstances dictate; and unshaded districts or districts shaded green should return to school full-time in-person, or hybrid if extenuating circumstances dictate, according to the guidance.

Apply the COVID 19 Metrics for HWRSD equally to all Schools Located within the Towns of Hamilton and Wenham

Second, we request that if the COVID 19 Metrics for HWRSD remain unchanged and will prevent our students from an in-person return to school, those same metrics must be enforced equally across all educational institutions in our community, including Pingree School, Academy at Penguin Hall and Gordon College. By implementing the hybrid model, the in-person class size for HWRSD classes will be the same or smaller than the class sizes of our private schools, which would be a reasonable differentiation if not already addressed by our plan. Therefore, if it is unsafe for our public school students to be in school, it must be agreed and accepted by the Hamilton-Wenham Boards of Health that it would be unsafe for any educational institution to operate within our towns. To do otherwise would be tantamount to discriminatory enforcement of town policy.

Revisit how COVID-19 Cases Occurring at Gordon College will Affect the COVID-19 Metrics for HWRSD

Third, the Hamilton-Wenham Boards of Health must revisit how cases at Gordon College will be accounted.  The current, if not all, instances of COVID-19 cases at Gordon College should be excluded from our metrics because these incidents are reportedly being managed within the “Gordon Bubble.”  In the alternative, if Gordon College COVID-19 cases are to be included in the COVID 19 Metrics for HWRSD, then so, too, should the Gordon College student population.  At this time it would appear that only Gordon College COVID-19 cases, and not the entire Gordon College student population, have been factored into the calculations performed by the Hamilton-Wenham Boards of Health, resulting in the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District’s Superintendent of Schools’s September 3rd letter announcing a change in our return-to-school model.  This calculation unfairly skews the metrics against our children, with the result that our children are no longer being allowed to return to school in person on September 14, 2020. The manner in which the Hamilton-Wenham Boards of Health have accounted for these COVID-19 cases results in an extremely punitive effect on our public school students without a corresponding risk to our community.

Conclusion

The families of Hamilton and Wenham must be empowered to make decisions about the best way in which to educate our children, including the opportunity to send our children to school if it is safe to do so. The COVID 19 Metrics for HWRSD must be aligned with the State Metrics to allow this to happen.

 

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