Test site prepares to swab Island minors

Schools discuss reopening plans, including the possibility that classrooms won’t fully reopen until Oct. 27.

There were seven new cases reported Friday, but overall the number of positive cases is going down.

Students under the age of 18 will be able to receive COVID-19 testing early next week, according to Tisbury health agent Maura Valley.

Although an exact start date for testing has not been determined, Valley told The Times Island Health Care will be ready to begin testing minors at the TestMV site by next week, and the process will work the same as it does right now. 

“They will make an appointment, and anyone ages 14 to 18 can come without a parent, as long as they have a signed parental consent form. Anyone under 14 would need a parent with them,” Valley said.

Testing is an option, but is not required, for students to return to Island schools, though Valley said discussions are ongoing, and state guidance on reopening schools continues to evolve.

The school reopening plan spearheaded by the reopening task force is ever-changing, as officials work to create a timeline for when students return to in-person learning.

At a previous All-Island School Committee meeting, administrators proposed a phased approach that would see all students back in their schools utilizing a hybrid learning model on Oct. 1.

At Thursday’s All-Island meeting, Superintendent Matt D’Andrea presented a proposal with an altered timeline, a cost projection analysis, and a possible metric for evaluating COVID-19 risk levels on Martha’s Vineyard.

The current proposed reopening plan (which must be voted on by each individual school district) still has students going to a remote learning model on Sept. 17, with all students back in the physical buildings by Oct. 27.

Under the proposed plan, K-2 (K-3 for the up-Island district) students would transition to a hybrid learning model on Sept. 29. Grades 3-5 would switch to the hybrid on Oct. 13, and students in grades 6-8 and all high schoolers would transition on Oct. 27.

D’Andrea said the reason up-Island students in grades K-3 would go back with K-2 students in other schools is because Chilmark has mixed classrooms — a K-1 classroom, and a 2-3 classroom.

“We don’t want to split that 2-3 classroom, and it makes sense to do it district-wide, so at West Tisbury, they would have their third grade going back that day too,” D’Andrea said.

The cohort model that was proposed as the primary method for accommodating students in person while adhering to distancing guidelines is also being worked on.

As of now, schools would utilize four cohorts: students in cohorts A and B would be fully engaged in the hybrid model. Cohort A would attend school in-person on Monday and Tuesday, and cohort B would attend school in-person on Thursday and Friday. Cohort C would serve high-needs students who may require additional support, or may need to get back to in-person learning as soon as possible.

Cohort D would serve fully remote students whose parents opt out of in-person learning.

For all cohorts, Wednesday would be a fully remote day when students could engage in teacher check-ins, social-emotional learning, mentor groups, and tutoring through Zoom. Wednesday would also be a day for schools to deep-clean their facilities. 

Island schools are also looking at adopting a metric that would determine the risk factor for in-person learning. D’Andrea presented a metric developed by the Harvard Global Health Institute that uses reports of daily case counts per 100,000 people, and translates that into a risk level represented by a color. There are four different risk levels: red, orange, yellow, and green. He said a metric is being developed by the state that will eventually be used as a universal indicator of COVID-19 risk level for schools. Based on that metric, the Island is currently in the green zone, which means less than one new case per day per 100,000 people on-Island.

Committee chair Robert Lionette said he wants to know why, using the metric D’Andrea proposed as a possibility, Island schools aren’t going back at the outset of September.

“Using the metric you wish to apply, I don’t understand why we aren’t a go,” Lionette said. “I want to understand what the data is that is being applied, and what the hard metrics are that this timeline is based upon.”

Committee member Alex Salop agreed, and said that for any ratio to be considered, it has to have a denominator. 

D’Andrea said the high school had an assessment conducted of the heating, ventilation, and cooling systems, which identified ways to improve airflow and ventilation in the building. 

According to the assessment, opening windows is one of the easiest ways to improve air quality, although the school will incur higher heating costs because of the open windows, according to high school finance manager Mark Friedman.

The assessment also noted high-efficiency air filters, portable filtration units, and regular replacing of filters as good ways to improve ventilation.

With increased custodial needs, personal protective equipment costs, facilities modifications, and other financial considerations, Island schools are looking at a significant increase in their unanticipated expenditures for FY21. 

Despite receiving almost $2 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant funds, Island schools are looking at more unanticipated costs. Friedman estimated the budget impact for things like PPE, transportation, and information technology, among other things, at $1.2 million and likely to increase.

According to Edgartown health agent Matt Poole, it’s difficult to know where the schools stand with reopening when there is no data currently available for minors. He highlighted the importance of testing students in order to get a baseline, and advocated for a gradual return to in-person learning. “I think it would be incredibly risky to jump into school in September,” Poole said.

Parent Liza Williamson told The Times she was surprised to hear that school officials were pushing back the date that all students would switch to a hybrid model, without having the metrics to make that decision.

In a letter Williamson wrote to the All-Island School Committee, she said keeping students out of the classroom for that long would take a heavy toll on families, and would leave working parents without options. 

“I appreciate our fantastic teachers and administrators (in my opinion they are all essential). However, this model is not the same for children who have no parents at home,” Williamson wrote. “This model leaves working parents without options. All models that incorporate remote learning risk expanding inequities in education among our population.”

Williamson said she wishes the school would look more at the mental health effects this could have on children who are home alone all day, and also have the pressure of trying to learn and navigate Google Classroom, assignments, and Zoom on their own.

“It is also mentally and emotionally devastating for a parent to be at work all day, all week, knowing their children are home alone and with this pressure. What are the options some of these parents have? Not all are essential workers, but work is essential for them,” Williamson said.

Williamson also asked about options for children who are too young to be left unattended during the school day. 

“The experts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, who base their recommendations on data and metrics, recommend that in-person learning is believed to be possible, and is in the best interest of our students, even from a risk-versus-benefit standpoint,” Williamson said.


    • There is a saying that I learned as a school boy that I think applies here: “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.”

      • WOW …That’s about the lowest comment I’ve ever read! If that was ok to say, then mine should go through

      • I teach my children well.
        Racism is learned behaviour.
        I teach my children well.
        I am a True Patriot.
        (We all know what True Patriot is PC for.)

        • Why does the Times allow barely-dog-whistling racists to constantly posture in their comments? What value do hatemongers and fascists bring to the public discourse?

      • My kids are proud of me.
        I am a Patriotic Communist hating, Second Amendment loving Trump supporter who wants only Northern Europeans to be allowed to enter the purest country in the world.

        • First off,, I was being critical of the two people who in my humble opinion were insulting you. I see by your you can stick up for yourself. Also, I don’t know what “ajay” stands for. However I’ll be more than happy who I am. Maybe you remember the situation Steve Sr. had? Nichols is my last name.

          • stevejr– perhaps you comment was deleted, as I see nothing from you concerning this article. You have ,in the past , posted relevant and articulate comments. I would like to know your opinion about testing and schooling. Thanks..

    • Re: ajay, your bold first statement is the type of ‘not wanting to contribute to the greater good’ that is really hurting most people’s mental/emotional well being and ability to predict what is best for our family. Your statement translates… “I’m not having my kids tested but it’s their right to be at school anyway”, similar to “I’m not wearing a mask; I’m not skipping that event that’s going to have 40+ people there…” So if over 50% of MV’s school staff are leary of going back b/c of having high risk family members or they themselves are high risk; or not ABLE to go back to the classrooms because they have kids too young to be home alone and no family here to help out… you are the type of person that will make it unlikely for any of us to return in person. So sad our country is filled with so many self-centered/selfish people. I’m wishing I lived in Australia right now.

  1. I hope the district will settle on some concrete criteria for opening our schools in person. The state is set to begin publishing community statistics next week so this should provide some clarity on numbers and feasibility. Let’s put our kids first and get them in school. They are the largest stakeholders here.

    • In a sane world, Putting your kids first would mean protecting their health, even if that means delaying the opening of schools.

      • I do not disagree. I think there needs to a plan for reopening based on case transmission in our community.

    • I agree that both MV and ACK could make the argument that our unique geography could allow us to proceed in a way that’s different from the rest of Dukes County. However one other thing that’s missing is our school district’s ability to have parents be truthful and forthcoming in reporting their trips off island or any type of risk factors that would cause a disruption. I don’t believe they have a plan in writing yet also for if a student or staff tests positive and what happens next to the classroom, the school,… Though I know our kids want to and should be back in the classroom (for many reasons), I feel the biggest group that has their health at stake are the school staff. There will be no learning, remote or otherwise, if the teachers and support staff start getting sick.

        • Fielding– the 13 Elizabeth islands are part of Dukes county. ( most privately owned)
          The most inhabited one, Gosnold , with a year-round population of 183, has had 8 reported cases. All related to one party.

          • Yes, I know that. My comment was in response to Practice Peace’s comment “we can proceed in a way that’s different from the rest of Dukes County”
            There really is no rest of Dukes County…

        • Fielding– sorry, I failed to recognize the irony and humor of your comment.
          There has to be some literary term for what you were addressing, but i don’t know it.
          Thanks for the clarification..

  2. I agree with Ms. Williamson, there has been no thought of working parents and how they are going to overcome this hurdle. I’m confused on how kids can go to summer camp M-F, but cannot attend school in the fall? Not everyone has the ability to provide an environment at home suitable for remote learning nor the resources.

    • Everyone has the obligation to provide an environment at home suitable for remote learning.
      Remote learning has been in place for well over 100 years (homework).
      Learning by electronic device has been in place for well over two decades.
      The resources are readily available.
      How many Islands kids live in a house without at least a $60 a month cable TV bill?
      That will buy high speed internet almost anywhere on the island.
      Education is a matter of priorities.

      • Now that I’ve got my feet wet…I really like your comments. You have what is a dying condition. Common sense. Btw my comment above was not meant for you.

  3. 2 of the largest school districts in the US are not reopening—( Los Angeles and San Diego)..825,000 children are going to attempt to learn online at home. Until there is a proven available vaccine no school is immune to shutdown. Why? Because the illness of stupidity makes people blind to scientific facts and medical advice, encourages belief in misinformation and results in a toxic infection of foolishness about a deadly serious crisis.

    • The scientific fact is that kids dont transmit to adults. Are you going to prove the rule by the exception? Anyone can win the Powerball, any male can get breast cancer, anyone can die in a plane crash. The likelyhood of this happening is very very slim. that is why life has to go on. Certain groups are vulnerable and others are not. Catasrophyzing aint gonna work. Most parents want their kids to go back to school. It is the teachers who dont want it, the unions dont want it. They dont want home schooling and they dont want charter schools. They dont want competition. More and more people after this pandemic are going to home school and opt out of paying 50k at a virtual university. Kids are not learning with all this virtual stuff and normal people know it.

      • “The scientific fact is kids don’t transmit to adults. Are you going to prove the rule by exception”
        Andy, are you going to prove your claim about it being a scientific fact?

      • It’s too bad the Times is allowing covid lies and misinformation. Children over the age of 10 spread the virus at least as well as adults. Children under 10 also spend the disease but not as much as adults.

      • Andy, where do you come up with this? “The scientific fact is that kids dont (sic) transmit to adults.” I will limit my sources to four. I will summarize some highlights of these sources here. Children over the age of ten can carry an active viral load identical to adults and can spread SARS-COV-2 just as easily as adults. (Actually, teens can spread it much more efficiently.) Children under the age of ten, for reasons I will not state here, express the PAMP (look it up, Andy) differently than adults, and are not as effective at spreading the virus itself. They still spread the virus, though. Young children can and do spread the SARS-COV-2 virus to children and adults.

        First, you grossly underestimate the fatal potential of COVID-19. Then, you claim that children are immune to the virus. (Yep, you really wrote that.) Now, you claim that children can still get the virus, but they don’t spread it. Below is a sampling of that material on which I base my observations. Please share your sources.

        Weisberg, Stuart P., et al. “Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV2 Are Distinct in Children With MIS-C Compared to Adults With COVID-19.” MedRxiv : the Preprint Server for Health Sciences, 2020.

        Ellen R Wald, M.D, Kathryn M Schmit, M.D, Daniele Y Gusland, M.D, A Pediatric Infectious Disease Perspective on COVID-19, Clinical Infectious Diseases, , ciaa1095

        Tung Ho, Carmen Lok, et al. “Clinical Characteristics of Children With COVID-19.” AIMS Public Health, vol. 7, no. 2, 2020, pp. 258-273.

        Baggio, Stéphanie, et al. “SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load in the Upper Respiratory Tract of Children and Adults With Early Acute COVID-19.” Clinical Infectious Diseases : an Official Publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 2020.

        • Bulkington. What I said was that teachers are in no danger of kids coming back to the classroom to learn. Kids are not going to contaminate teachers. That is all. Now if you want to find one vague case somewhere in Burkina Faso go ahead but to try to prove a point by a lone exception is illogical. You wont believe me on anything but go to Wesley Jenkinsen who essentially says the same thing as I do.

          • Andy, you claim teachers are in no danger of kids coming back to the classroom. You got any “scientific facts” to back that up?

          • Scroll up to what you actually said, Andrew. You said, “The scientific fact is that kids dont transmit to adults”. (You forgot the apostrophe in “don’t”.) You did not say teachers are in no danger, although that is as untrue as well. How do you deny the untruths you spout on here when it’s right here in black and white? And your pal with the misogynistic sound effects on his computer does not agree with your untruth, either. In fact, no one agrees with you, least of all those who respect scientific fact. This is like denying that you don’t owe Don $1000, when you also starting making up untruths to get out of being caught, yet again, in making up untrue garbage. Have you no honor at all?

        • Andrew, I’m going to have to politely disagree with your position that children don’t spread Covid. The Wall Street Journal article that ran yesterday seems well researched and their journalism tends to be high quality. https://www.wsj.com/articles/latest-research-points-to-children-carrying-transmitting-coronavirus-11596978001. It’s certainly possible to keep reaching to the outer fringes of journalism to find articles that support the “Kids Don’t Spread Covid” argument, but the air gets a little thin out there. What’s more relevant to the island school system is the remarkably low incidence of Covid in our community, as evidenced by the figures cited daily in this newspaper. We’re talking 99.8% infection-free in a random sampling of the community. At that rate, we can be confident that most children and adults in the building do not have Covid, and as long as people are tested frequently, it’s a negligible risk.

          • Mr Jenkinsen. I saw the WSJ article and it is full of ”might be” ”potentially could” ”not immune to” and essentially raising the possibility but no firm evidence and certainly not any trajectory. Besides as you correctly have said–MV is not an issue for kids. Schools are opening all over the country and it aint because they are being careless. They are measuring the cost benefit ratio which many on this post have abandoned.

          • Andy — we will never come close to 1,000 deaths from this virus in the U.S.. I wonder who said that ?
            it will all disappear in April–I wonder who said that ?
            These were hard proclamations– no doubt about either of those statements. So you disparage some studies that have the words “Might be” ” potentially” “not immune to” etc.
            yes, much better to just flat out say it will miraculously disappear, the numbers are going down, it is all under control– – BENGHAZI– OBAMA-GATE– HILLARY– SOCIALIST– ANTIFA–
            All better now–

        • It would be funny if people didn’t believe this kind of garbage. Image a parent sending a child to school with mild but unconfirmed covid symptoms, thinking it was okay because they couldn’t spread covid.

        • dondondon all your statistics and all your research has taught you nothing of value. Always learning but never coming to the knowledge of truth.

          • Andy, follow up on your comment about the WSJ article. You claim it is full of “might be” “potentially could” and “not immune to”
            Earlier you claimed it’s a “scientific fact that kids don’t transmit to adult”
            How about you post a link or to that proves your claims and shows the WSJ to be wrong.
            I’m willing to bet you won’t…

          • andrew– and what would “the knowledge of truth ” be ?
            I research statistics, facts, the opinions of the worlds leading researchers who’s research has been vetted and peer reviewed..
            You make up some crank conspiracy theory, and tell me i have no knowledge or the truth.
            I have to say that I am stunned that a man of your obvious intelligence can make such a stupid comment.

    • Not that there is any comparison between LA County and Dukes County but if we were to use that logic, LA County has a 7.2% infection rate while Dukes County is roughly .51%. Precisely why they should have different plans for returning to school. CA has only said that when they achieve lower than 5% they will resume in person learning.

  4. Again, until Quest is able to provide test results within 48-72 hours it is a fools errand to ramp up testing to include minors. It will only increase the current wait time of 5-7 days which, by that time, the results are of questionable usefulness. It is a waste of precious resources (money, test kits and volunteer time). Quest should have been up-front from the beginning about their capacity to provide results and worked with local officials to develop testing criteria and a schedule that took into consideration their own limitations to meet the demand.

  5. According to the test results in this paper, 99.8% of asymptomatic islanders are testing negative. For those who are symptomatic enough to merit a trip to the hospital, the rate is still an overwhelming 98.74% negative. This suggests that the vast majority of people in this community do not have Covid-19. The notion that schools are a tinderbox waiting to go off is absurd. Basic precautions and consistent testing make sense, but hiding under the bed in panic is not warranted. Keep an eye on the numbers, but lighten up.

    • wesley– You can trust that I for one am keeping an eye on the numbers. read my comment on “3 new cases”
      But, we also need to understand what those numbers mean. It is common for intelligent people of goodwill to look at statistics and come to different conclusions. let me cite climate change as an example– Some will say it is always 95 degrees in such and such place, so what’s the big deal if the temperature in the arctic rises by 2 Celsius. My example is what if your body temperature went up by that?
      I have my eye on a number that is not often talked about but is disturbing to me.
      if you get this disease, there are 2 possible outcomes– you recover or you die.
      so far, six percent die in the united states— https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
      If you look at the number of new cases each day and think 6% of those people are going to die– that’s a disturbing statistic. I am not concerned about the percentages of asymptomatic people who are negative.

      • Actually, some people with the disease don’t, or haven’t yet, fully recovered, so there are more than two outcomes. Yes, some people are sick for a couple of weeks and then are fine, but there are more and more incidents of lingering exhaustion and organ damage, particualrly heart and lung. There also seems to be a brain ‘fog’ that many once healthy people are complaining of after they recover. It’s not a disease anyone should be cavalier about catching.

  6. According to the New York Times Georgia had 5.5x as many cases per 100,000 people over the last 7 days as Massachusetts. If we were sporting their case numbers it would not be prudent to send kids back into schools. Georgia and MV are apples and oranges.

    • A number of island high school grads go to Savannah College of Art and Design each year, as only one example of how connected Georgia is to us. It’s a small world. The island is not a bubble. It only takes one. It’s really important to take precautions— masks, hygiene, testing, distancing and contact tracing, even here on the island in our school.

      • Feilding, Andy also says he doesn’t owe Don $1000 after losing his bet with him. Andy also says “It is scientific fact that kids don’t transmit to adullts”, and then says he did not say that, even though he said both, right here on this thread. Andy also says teachers are in no danger coming back into the classroom to learn. One might conclude that Andy says absolutely nothing true at all, while arrogantly carrying on about “knowledge of truth”.

        It is dangerous to tell people that children cannot transmit this disease. I know Trump does it, so it’s not surprising that his cult following repeats the Trump’s lies, but some social media outlets, like FaceBook and Twitter, no longer allow these lies and they delete false and misleading covid info from Trump. It’s really not a matter of debate when it comes to lies. There is no such thing as alternative facts. Lies are not facts, at least here on earth.

    • Fauci recommends universal wearing of masks. Schools are not an exception to taking any of the recommended precautions.

  7. .
    Testing is an option, but is not required for students to return to Island schools. Wonderful, that is basically along the same lines as Mask wearing and Social Distancing even though they jokingly say those two are orders mandatory. Most but not all establishments obey but some think it is one big hoax, laugh and sell booze.
    Plus everybody knows that the only people benefiting from the tests are the guys selling them! Accurate results and the data is totally non-extent!
    The leaders in the positions of authority are clearly not on the same page or even close!
    Liza Williamson has many good points!
    And where are our congressmen an senators – “Crickets” from both Warren & Keating as always!

    The thing is the kids have not been seriously practicing social distancing or wearing masks especially at the Jaws Bridge all summer long every day so seems that they would be more under control in the school setting.

  8. America was sick well before this virus. All the virus is doing is exploiting the unhealthiest nation in the world. Everyone asks why is America doing so poorly with the virus? Ummm its obvious.

    • Yes, no leadership is obvious. The idiot in charge denied the contagiousness and threat for months, and then turned science recommendations into an idiot’s freedom festival. More masks, fewer cases. Duh.

    • You’ve made this claim before so I did some research.
      I’m not sure where you’re getting your info that we are the unhealthiest country in the world, but the worst showing for the US I found has the US tied for tenth with Luxembourg. The rest don’t even show the US in the top 30.

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