Small Classes, Plenty of PPE Advised School Reopenings

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BOSTON — Schools planning to reopen in the fall will have to reduce their class sizes to no more than 10 students and keep students 6 feet apart as much as possible. 
 
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidelines Friday on required sanitation supplies and safety for reopening schools this fall. 
 
The memorandum covers the first 12 weeks of school and includes social distancing protocols based on the understanding of COVID-19 at the present. 
 
That includes smaller classes at 10 and no more than two staff in a classroom at time. Whenever possible, the students should be isolated in smaller groups with a "consistently assigned teacher" and not mix with other students and staff. 
 
Desks will have to be 6 feet apart and protocols put in place for exiting and entering the classroosm. 
 
Schools across the commonwealth were closed in mid-March to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 7,000 Bay Staters to date and infected more than 100,000. The expectation is that schools will be reopening in the fall although local districts are considering a hybrid of remote learning and in-class schedules to reduce the number of people in the buildings at any one time. 
 
Most of the guidelines are the same as current expectations for people in close quarters: stay home if sick, uses face coverings with exceptions for age and medical conditions, frequent hand washing, and keeping 6 feet apart. 
 
Schools also must develop protocols to isolate students who become sick during the school day and a specific room must be maintained for students with COVID-19 symptoms that is separate from the nurse's office or other space where other ailments are treated. 
 
A lot more frequent cleaning will also have to be done within buildings, and personal protective equipment will have to be stocked up. 
 
"We are issuing this guidance on key safety supplies now so that districts can begin the ordering process for critical items that may be harder to procure and/or have longer potential delivery times," states the guidance from Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. "In this document, we provide specific information that will allow districts and schools to make these key safety purchases as soon as possible."
 
Schools are advised to have 10 disposable gloves and 10 disposable gowns per staff per week, or 120 of each for each staff and faculty member. They should also have on hand at least four gallons of hand sanitizer per classroom based on 100 percent attendance. 
 
Parents are expected to provide face coverings for their children but schools should have backup disposable masks for them. 
 
DESE is not advising temperatures checks at this time because of the "significant number of both false positive and false negative results." This was determined after consultation with the COVID-19 Command Center's Medical Advisory Committee.  
 

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County Cultural, Entertainment Venues Get $9M in SBA Grants

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Berkshire County cultural venues were awarded more than $9 million in U.S. Small Business Administration funding to alleviate the impacts of having to close during the pandemic.
 
Grants ranged from $2.7 million for Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and $1.5 million for Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket to  $124,765 for Images Cinema in Williamstown and $15,187 for Athlone Artists in Lenox.
 
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal on Monday announced $20,010,864 in grant funds for the 1st Massachusetts congressional district from the Shuttered Venues Operation Grant program. The congressman was at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield with the museum's President and CEO John Doleva; the Hall of Fame received $3,740,728 in funding.
 
"These funds are incredibly instrumental to operations like the Basketball Hall of Fame who suffered greatly because of the pandemic," said Neal. "For the safety of the American people, the government forced these agencies to close their doors. And now, it is the government again stepping in to make sure that they are able to get back on their feet."
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