District releases school update

MILFORD – The town’s school district, SAU 40, recently released an outline containing CDC COVID-19 case metrics and spread/mitigation strategies, priorities for school reopening, pandemic resilience and data per Milford school, among other pieces of information for parents, families and residents.

As of Jan. 12, in the past two weeks in the state of New Hampshire and specifically Hillsborough county, the rate of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 has been 667.5

And as of Jan. 12 in Milford, with a population of 15,981, there have been 140 cases in the past two weeks. There are 112 active cases.

The district’s outline stated, “Making a shift from crisis management to organizational and cultural change is necessary for pandemic resilience.”

The district explained that schools should use metrics of community spread as general points of information, not “off-on switches for closure and opening.” And as for school transmission, the goal should be zero to near zero transmission.

The detailed information provide also suggests that schools can be open even at very high levels of spread that we are seeing, “provided that they strictly implement strategies of infection control.” Schools with in-person learning that use effective mitigation strategies are very unlikely to create super spreader events and even more importantly, can create safe environments.

A CDC report on COVID infections found that children 12-17 have been diagnosed with COVID about twice as often as children 5-11 years old. Schools opening with strong controls in place have limited impact on community transmission rates.

The report also suggested that clusters associated with schools often seem to originate outside the school, rather than as a result of within-building transmission.

It is also stated that teachers face no greater risk than other comparatively low-risk front line workers such as grocery clerks or retails workers and far less than meatpackers and health care workers.

Milford’s outline stressed that “Capacity for maintaining infection control protocols is the bests guide for determining the safety of opening for in-person learning.

Mitigation strategies include universal mask wearing, hand and bathroom hygiene, and achieving four-six changes per hour of clean air through any combination of ventilation and filtration.

Social distancing guidelines for young learners is three feet at all levels of community spread; six feet is recommended for high school when levels of community spread rise above 100/100,000 daily new cases, three feet of social distancing below that level.

Ultimately, mitigation strategies should include robust quarantining and contact tracing policies and protocols, and where feasible, “testing.”

The school district’s priorities for reopening are pre-K through five students and students in particularly vulnerable groups pre-K through eight with robust infection control practices; grades six through eight students in particularly vulnerable groups at levels nine-twelve with robust infection control practices; the rest of nine-twelve.

The Milford school district also provides a remote option for those who choose it.

For achieving pandemic resilience, those bullet points include universal precautions at school; widespread adherence to health, safety and shared responsibility to out of school rules, i.e., masking, small social circles, physical distancing, staying home when sick; infection control in schools; strong communication; and school leadership monitoring.

The district’s report also outlines what their data is saying, school by school.

In a parent data survey, it was reported that out of 1,232 respondents, 67 percent would opt for a full return for school if their child if it was offered by the MSD following the February break (elementary starting Mar. 1 and secondary starting Apr. 6). Thirty-two percent said no.

Twenty-six percent of respondents favorable for a full-return also indicated that a hybrid option would be preferred as well, while 74 percent selected full-return only.

Of a hybrid option for the remainder of the school year, 34 percent said yes, while 65 percent said no.

And with regard to a remote option, 24.5 percent said yes, while 75.5 percent said no.

The outline, available on the school district’s website (milfordk12.org), also contains timeline models and implications for a full-return on Mar. 1, elementary school education and a secondary timelines for a full-return model. (The data also contains implications for a full-return on Apr. 5.)

The cost implications for a return to in-person learning shows that COVID relief act funds include PPE costs ($15,000), custodial support ($70,000 additional custodial support for 14 weeks) and potential additional staffing costs (five additional custodial support staff.)

Various hybrids of the aforementioned are also outlined.

The school district and the school board have also announced that a new superintendent search committee has been assembled, as current Milford school superintendent Dr. Jessica Huizenga submitted her resignation in December, effective July 1, 2021.

The initial task is a leadership profile development, which will be created in phase one.

Those committee members are Carri Marsh, Jeff McGrath, Libby St. Jean, Mike Hainsworth, Mike McLean, Stacy Cusack, Erin Mello, Tim O’Connell, Chris Saunders, Suzanne Schedin, Bill Demers, Chali Davis, Jessica Bouchard, Stephen Vetack, Christi Michaud, Laura Sebert, Susan Smith, Steve Erdody, Jaime Morin, Tricia Shea, Chris Skinner, Kristen Kivela, Tracy Lane,Joseph Vitulli and Judi Zaino.