Dear Brewer School Department Parents and Families,
I hope this letter finds your family safe and doing well as we make our way through mid-winter. I wanted, as we are about to enter into our February break, to reach out to reiterate the Brewer School Department's commitment to safety and give you a few updates to that end.
First, we have happily not had to go to remote learning since a handful of days in January. While this is good news, we also know that some of our families have loved ones who are dealing with COVID-19 in their houses and lives, and we hold them in our thoughts and stand ready to support them as they deal with this virus.
Also, we had some of our student athletes have to go into quarantine in the past 24 hours due to individuals connected to an opponent's team having tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily none of our students have had any symptoms and no other Brewer students or staff have been impacted. Our thoughts are with those people from the other school who are positive. We wish them good health and a speedy recovery.
Other safety updates include the following:
We continue to be committed to our Keys to Safety in the Brewer Schools that have helped keep our schools safe. Further, new travel guidelines, just come out from the National Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Maine Center for Disease Control (MCDC), are linked here.
We are monitoring news of virus variants even as cases of the original COVID-19 virus have fallen in recent days. The MCDC and national CDC are looking at March as a time when we will learn more about how far variants may spread. The variant recently found in Maine is more contagious, and data about its severity as compared to the strain of COVID-19 we've been dealing with is not conclusive at this point in time.
Our safety processes and protocols are working, and we have had lower incidents of virus than is in the general public. We will continue to examine ways to stay safe should a variant become an issue in our community, including looking at strategies such as double masking or wearing thicker masks and making sure masks fit snugly and form a good seal on a person's face. Masks have proven to be one of the most effective measures to keep the virus at bay which is why we pay close attention to their use in our schools.
To date we have had the following since Labor Day, 2020:
Approximately a dozen known positive COVID-19 cases in our schools
No known spread of a positive case from any member of the Brewer School Department to anyone else in our schools
Ten remote learning days for an entire building as a result of the positive cases -- eight at BHS and two at BCS
The BCS 8th grade had four remote learning days (two for each cohort) due to a positive case, and 3rd & 4th grades had two remote learning days due to what turned out to be false positive cases
BHS has twice been named as having an outbreak after recording three positive cases coming into the school over a 2-week span. In each situation the school was removed from the list when no new cases were detected over a subsequent fourteen day period of time
We've had approximately 90 days of school this year (about 45 days for each cohort) most of which have been typical in-person school-day schedules happening for the majority of our students
Continued use of grant money to provide financial support to families who are using local accredited day programs for their students due to the design of our alternating A and B cohorts
Physical plant upgrades including virus filtering MERV 13 air filters, a new generator that will be able to power all of BHS during power outages, sixty standing HEPA air filter units for BHS that also filter out viruses, new air exchange systems for the nursing areas of both buildings, a new air exchange system for the BHS weight room, ceiling units in select BCS classrooms in order to approach negative pressure that will allow better air filtration in hot weather, additional bottle filler water fountains in both schools, and new windows in the BHS library among other improvements. More physical plant improvements will be pursued depending on the amount of federal grant money we receive and how it is designed to be used
We are being cautious and watchful while at the same time maximizing the in-person learning time we currently have.
Each day we are assessing where we're at, what is going on with the virus and any variants, gauging how to keep our students and staff physically safe while paying attention to social/emotional wellness, and looking to take advantage of as much academic learning as the 2020-2021 school year affords us.
I feel good about how we've done to this point in time, but tomorrow is a new day and we will take on the challenges that day brings along with looking for each and every opportunity available to the Brewer School Department.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support, for monitoring your students' daily health and symptoms, for keeping the faith. I am humbled by the kids, their good will and joy and connection, and by our teachers and staff who are working tirelessly to make this a year that counts in the social and academic lives of their students.
Have a good school break and be safe. We will reach out to keep you informed as we take on late February and March.
Gregg Palmer, Superintendent of Brewer Schools