We take our commitment to keep our community as safe as possible from Covid-19 very seriously. We think carefully about how we handle and communicate every Covid-related issue. We regularly consult with the Arlington Health Department, the MA Department of Public Health, and our Health Care Consultant at Arlington Pediatrics, to make sure that our decisions are in line with current best practices in managing Covid-19 risks in early childhood programs.
The pandemic requires all members of our community to be flexible, as the public health guidance continues to evolve, and changes in our policies may therefore be necessary in order to help protect everyone’s health and safety.
We have procedures and protocols in place for the safety of all during Covid-19, while maintaining a firm commitment to providing an environment that fosters children’s burgeoning social, emotional, and cognitive skills, their relationships with each other, their sense of wonder, and their imagination. We will continue to encourage children to be active, confident, and connected learners as they explore their environment and develop trusting and friendly relationships with adults and children. It remains our goal to provide unparalleled opportunities for children to play, which will continue to be carefully planned to enable each child to grow and develop in a social setting.
We remain committed to honoring the importance of play in children’s lives and the need for children to engage with one another, and their teachers, as they explore their environment. Classrooms and routines may be different, but our core values have not changed. Children will be encouraged to explore their environment, develop relationships with children and teachers, ask questions, extend their language skills, problem-solve, express their thoughts and ideas, and work through and understand their feelings.
Summary of our Covid-19 Policies
Protocols in Place: We have detailed protocols in place for when a child becomes ill at school, handling a positive case of or exposure to Covid-19, as well as other scenarios. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) has designated local boards of health or health departments as the primary source for reporting and tracing COVID-19 positive cases and exposures. We direct any questions about closure, quarantine, isolation of sick children, and reports of positive cases or exposures to the Arlington Board of Health/Health Department first, along with the MA Department of Public Health (DPH). Their representatives guide us through an action plan and next steps, depending on the situation.
Mitigation Strategies for COVID-19: At AHNS, we understand that implementing preventive measures including a conservative travel policy, limiting visitors in the center, physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, and enhanced sanitizing and disinfecting measures, especially of high-touch surfaces, can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Encouraging parents, children and staff to stay home when ill has proven to be an effective mitigation measure since the start of the pandemic. If families have any doubts about their child’s health, they are encouraged to call our school nurses before the school day begins to discuss any health concerns. Additionally, staff and families are asked to self-screen at home before arriving at AHNS; children are also visually screened by a staff member prior to admittance into the building for signs of illness.
Staff Vaccination: We have a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff, including volunteers and specialists, when applicable. Our current staff are all vaccinated; as we hire additional staff, they are informed that vaccination is a condition of employment and they must start the vaccination process before their first day of employment and must complete the process by an agreed upon date.
Weekly Pooled PCR Testing of Staff and Children: We participate in a pooled testing program through Neighborhood Villages https://www.maearlyedtesting.com/ for both children and staff. Families may choose to sign their child up to participate, and most do. Participation is free, convenient and comfortable for children, as they are being tested alongside their classmates and teachers.
In Conclusion: The pandemic is constantly evolving. As regulations change and additional guidance is issued by local, state and federal authorities, we update our protocols and procedures to ensure the safest and healthiest school environment within our control. We are committed to keeping families informed and welcome feedback from families on how we can be as safe as possible during this challenging time.