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Burlington School Leaders Update School Committee on Efforts to Keep Kids in Classes

Burlington Public School leaders say they are working to keep as many students in class as possible and are encouraging parents to consider getting their children vaccinated as a way of helping meet that goal.

During an update of the Test and Stay program where students and faculty members who have been identified as close contacts to a positive case of COVID-19, Superintendent Eric Conti told the School Committee that the district’s participation in the initiative has been steady.

“We’re still mostly in a holding pattern,” he said.

As reported by BNEWS, Test and Stay is a new program using rapid testing to help keep more students in the building. It allows any asymptomatic student or faculty member identified as a close contact to a person who tested positive for COVID to remain in school if they get a rapid test in the morning and it comes out negative. Students must test negative five days in a row before they are out of the program. The program only applies to students or faculty members who are contact traced to a case in the school and does not apply for any close contact situation that happens in the community.

Conti added that they are keeping a close eye on every new case, which have averaged about three per week.

“We are tracking our positive cases carefully,” he said. “We have opened up the cafeterias at the elementary and middle school levels so we are looking at that. Our neighboring districts who have had their cafeterias open have not seen an increased spread.”

Conti also said that other school districts he’s in contact with have been looking at lifting the state mask mandate, currently set to expire no earlier than January 15, for buildings that have over 80 percent of all students and staff vaccinated as allowed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He did not specifically say Burlington was looking at that option but urged parents to consider having their children vaccinated as a defense against the pandemic.

“There has been approval for vaccines for students between five and 11 years old and we are urging parents to consult with their child’s pediatrician and making appointments if they agree as a family that is the appropriate thing to do,” he said. “We are trying to keep as many students in school as we possibly can and are tracking cases carefully. So far we’re doing fairly well and hopefully we won’t see any increase going into the winter months but we’re watching it carefully.”

Finally, he said the district will continue to provide vaccination clinics that will rotate to the different schools and that parents can sign up their students on the district’s website.