We are writing to you collectively as a team of physician and nurse members of the Health Subcommittee of the Return to School Task Force. We are all parents of students in the MPS district, representing all of the schools across the district. We have all volunteered our time and expertise over the last several months to promote the safety of MPS students and staff, including our own children. Together, we have worked to develop an infection control plan that will allow for the safe reopening of MPS using the hybrid model.
We are a multi-disciplinary group, employed by different academic and non-academic hospitals and corporations, in different specialties with expertise in different and complementary areas related to the school reopening. Over the past several months we have not agreed on all of the details about how to interpret the scientific evidence available, and sometimes our differences became heated. At the heart of these debates were the same shared goals: to protect the safety of everyone in the MPS system-students, educators and staff. We are joining together now because we are all in agreement about the most fundamental question facing the MPS community today: The Milton Public School district developed a sound, comprehensive, multi-faceted infection control plan, that is based on current evidence about SARS-CoV-2 spread and the fundamental pillars of infection control. We believe it is safe to open the schools under the current conditions for in-person hybrid learning.
According to data published in The Boston Globe and the New York Times, rates of infection in Massachusetts have fallen by 30% over the past two weeks, and the current test positivity rate in Milton is 1.06%. As the current data stands, we are in a safe context for opening. The current evidence-based infection control plan for MPS includes many proven infection prevention strategies and was developed and adapted to the specifics of the Milton Public School students, staff, and existing infrastructure. It utilizes epidemiologic controls, including a partnership with Beth Israel Deaconness-Milton Hospital to provide accessible, rapid turnaround COVID-19 diagnostic testing for symptomatic students and staff to aid decisions about isolation and cohort quarantines. It employs administrative controls including limiting the number of people in the building, cohort-based classrooms, physical distancing, and a pre-entry symptom/exposure screen that is integrated into Google Classroom for ease of use. Engineering and environmental controls include utilization of outdoor space when feasible, re-purposing of specific rooms throughout the district to meet the need for increased classrooms, increased ventilation through open windows when feasible, and air purifiers with HEPA filters in high-risk environments such as nursing offices. The final pillar of infection control that will be employed is PPE/Hand Hygiene in that masks will be required of all students and staff that enter the building and will be provided to all staff and students who need them. Eye protection in the form of face shields or goggles/safety glasses will be available for all MPS staff. Diligent hand hygiene with increased sanitizing stations available, and instruction on both handwashing and hand sanitizing techniques will be part of the safety plan.
We understand that being flexible and nimble with the changing landscape is important. We continue to look at data, trends, and our current town and state context. With Milton and Massachusetts infection rate data as it is currently, the four- layered approach of epidemiologic controls, administrative controls, engineering and environmental controls, and robust PPE/hand hygiene protocols, we have a safe plan for the hybrid opening. If any of these shifts, re-evaluation will be necessary, and we are all committed to continuing to research and collaborate for the safety of all teachers, staff and students.
We are writing to reinforce our support for the current hybrid reopening plan, which was voted on 5-1 by the school committee less than two weeks ago. The implementation of this robust plan may be called into question due to an event outside of the control of the health committee and the Return to School task force: the sudden retirement of school Superintendent Mary Gormley, with a transition to a new superintendent. We also understand that approximately 85% of the parents in the district selected the hybrid plan, because they supported Mrs. Gormley’s recommendation, reviewed the robust infection control plan, and are convinced of its safety for students, educators, and staff.
We stand together in this letter, committing our support for a hybrid plan for MPS that utilizes a component of in-person education, with a remote option available as well. We believe that such a plan is safe for students, teachers, and all staff at MPS.
Elissa Perkins, M.D., MPH
Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine
Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center
Parent of two students at Tucker Elementary School
Westyn Branch-Elliman, M.D., MMSc
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Investigator, VA Boston Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research
Infectious Diseases Consultant, VA Boston Healthcare System and Beth Israel Deaconess
Parent of two students at Glover Elementary School
Robb D. Kociol, M.D., MS, FHFSA
Former Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Section Chief, Advanced
Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology.
Current role, Executive Director, Medical Expert
Division of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs, Cardiometabolism
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
2 daughters in the Milton school district: a fourth-grader and a seventh-
Patricia Guglietta, M.D.
Pediatrician, MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center
Clinical Instructor, Harvard Medical School
MPS school physician
Two children in MPS: a daughter, plus a son at Pierce Middle School
Melissa Sweeney, MEd, BSN, BA
Boston Public Schools
Parent of a rising sixth-grader at Pierce and a rising fourth-grader at Collicot Elementary School
Timika Gagne, RN-BSN, M.S., CMSRN
School Nurse, Boston Public Schools
Rising first-grader at Tucker Elementary School and a rising seventh-grader at Pierce
Anne Chamberlin, RN-BSN
PACU RN, Massachusetts General Hospital
Mother to a rising ninth-grader at Milton High School
MaryAnn Dakkak, M.D., MPH
Assistant Professor, Boston University
Mother to two children at Glover Elementary School
Jamie DeCaro, M.Ed, Cer.A.T.T.
Chief Anesthesia Technologist
Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine
Boston Children’s Hospital
Mother of two: one entering kindergarten at Cunningham and one entering second-grade at Collicot
Geoffrey A. Walford, M.D., MMSc
Father of three children at Cunningham