EAST LONGMEADOW – After opting for the ‘Test and Stay’ scheme ahead of the holidays, the East Longmeadow School Board discussed implementing the COVID-19 testing method at their January 18 meeting.
Superintendent Gordon Smith opened the conversation by sharing COVID-19 policy updates from the Department of Education and Secondary Learning (DESE). With schools mandating mask-wearing until early March, school board member Gregory Thompson asked if any schools in the district were getting close to the 80% vaccination threshold that would allow them to opt out of the mandate.
Smith noted that while schools continue to make progress, no school in the district is within the 80% range. “We’re getting closer, but we’re still behind,” Smith said. The superintendent also noted that the current mask mandate for East Longmeadow would prevent any school from removing its masking requirements.
Regarding the “Test and Stay” program, Smith said he and director of nursing Kelly LaBombard attended a tutoring conference to learn more about the process. He said the meeting helped coordinate how test samples would be collected and stored in partnership with the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), with the school district now beginning to distribute consent forms allowing parents to enroll students in the program.
While ‘Test and Stay’ will have a place at schools in East Longmeadow, Smith reiterated that they do not plan to participate in symptomatic or pool testing.
The East Longmeadow School Committee has also provided updates to professional development programs that align with DESE requirements to bridge the learning gap generated by the pandemic. Heather Brown, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, discussed different initiatives that should be implemented with the different school groups, including the Innocent Classroom project for students in sixth through twelfth grade and the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) program for pre-kindergarten. students up to 2nd grade.
Brown highlighted Innocent Classroom as a program that builds relationships and fosters a sense of belonging with students. She pointed out that professional development for this topic at lower levels will be bolstered by information from the statewide Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, with the group providing development to the school district courtesy of the DESE.
The program director described the LETRS program as an important tool for building students’ reading skills. “It’s not about a specific curriculum, it’s really about teaching teachers basic information about the skills needed to reach kids in terms of reading,” Brown said.
The East Longmeadow School Committee will meet again on February 7.