BROOKLINE — Interim Superintendent Jim Marini and Town Administrator Mel Kleckner wish to provide an update on two recent actions to support and protect all community members, including the staff and students of Public Schools of Brookline, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Town of Brookline Authorizes $500,000 to Support Testing of School and Town Populations
Of this amount, $300,000 will be used for weekly asymptomatic testing of student-facing PSB staff over the course of 8 to 10 weeks. The funding will also be used for testing students in grades 6-12 participating in hybrid learning.
Tests will be administered voluntarily, and staff and students will be notified of their individual results.
“We are pleased to be able to offer this resource for our school community,” Superintendent Marini said. “Protecting the health and safety of all Public Schools of Brookline community members is our top priority and while we are confident that the measures we have taken to date are highly effective in limiting in-school transmission, this program will also support that goal.”
“We are grateful to the Town of Brookline for its support in providing these important surveillance tests for our educators and staff,” said School Committee member and chair of the Remote Learning Task Force Susan Wolf Ditkoff, who led organization of this testing program for the committee. “These convenient new tests will ensure that our staff can monitor their own results every week. Real-time, system-wide information will also help provide specific steps and peace of mind for our entire school community. This testing is one more part of many investments that began in June that have improved our ventilation and HVAC systems, provided personal protective equipment for our staff, increased disinfecting and cleaning of our buildings, created procedures for distancing and cohorts, and many other safety precautions.”
Under the leadership of Coordinator of School Health Services, Patricia Laham, RN, staff are working diligently to finalize the logistics of the testing programs at this time. More information about the programs will be provided to all staff and families of grade 6-12 students in the near future.
Families and staff are reminded that any individual who is showing any COVID-19-related symptoms prior to the start of the school day must stay home and contact their healthcare provider about testing. Those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus are asked to remain home as well, monitor themselves for symptoms and contact their healthcare provider about testing options.
The Town will be using the remaining $200,000 to continue funding the testing site in town for members of the Brookline community. That site was initially funded as a pilot through the end of December but will now be extended into 2021.
“I’m delighted we are extending the testing program for residents as we witness another surge in COVID19 cases,” Health Commissioner Dr. Swannie Jett said. “It will provide us the needed surveillance to stop the spread of the disease in Brookline”.
PCR swab tests are available at the Health Department building, 11 Pierce St., on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments can be made by booking online here. Residents may also call 339-201-5516.
Members of the Brookline community may get tested at the clinic, and uninsured individuals who are symptomatic — or have been identified as close contacts of positive cases — can have their testing expenses covered by the Town.
Residents who are insured and are symptomatic will have their test expenses billed through their insurance provider.
In order to qualify as a close contact, community members must show documentation from the state or local Department of Public Health that indicates they have come into contact with a positive case. The Brookline Department of Public Health will email a letter to residents identified as a close contact which can be used to obtain testing for free at the Brookline site.
The cost of testing is $140 for asymptomatic individuals who have not been identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive person.
Free testing is also available through the state’s Stop the Spread initiative. For more information, click here.
District and Brookline Educators Union Reach Agreement on COVID-19 Related Support
Additionally, a new Memorandum of Agreement between the Brookline Educators Union and the School Committee was approved last week to help further support teachers during the pandemic.
The new MOA, which can be found here, includes agreements on teaching/learning models, work schedules, quarantine and sick leave, personal protective equipment, ventilation and distancing/cohorting, as well as ratifications of existing PSB policies/procedures for health and safety training, face coverings, and cleaning and disinfecting.
These changes were made to help minimize the impacts of the pandemic on educators. For example, teachers will not need to use their sick time should they be required to quarantine, and additional preparation time will be built into the calendar to help with the development of hybrid learning lesson plans.
The joint agreement went into effect immediately after it was approved by the BEU and School Committee, and will remain in effect until the end of the school year.
“These necessary, temporary changes are an important way to accommodate and support our educators in light of COVID-19,” School Committee Chair Suzanne Federspiel said. “They are going above and beyond to provide our students with the best education possible given the extremely challenging situation.”
“This agreement includes means by which the union and the district can continue to work together as problem-solving partners in weeks and months ahead,” BEU president Jessica Wender-Shubow said.