Keeping SHS Safe and Healthy is a Priority


Delaney Sandner, Staff Writer

This school year, COVID has taken a large toll on our school and how it’s run.  The SHS administration has tried its best to create a safe and healthy school environment in order to keep the COVID numbers low. In doing so, the school has taken some heavy precautions to limit the number of people in the building and to enforce strict safety measures. For example, everyone is required to wear masks, desks are cleaned at the conclusion of every class, and students maintain a distance of six feet whenever possible. So far, SHS students have done an excellent job at this, as prior to November 10th of 2020, there were zero positive COVID cases reported at SHS.  

SHS Athletic Director Peter Umbrianna says there have been some changes to the rules for certain sports as well as precautionary measures that are enforced. These were created to limit the spread of COVID and to ensure there are as few positive COVID cases as possible. For the process of handling the positive cases, Umbrianna says when there is a concern of an outbreak on a team, he is informed first as well as the coaches, who then involve the school nurses and superintendent to come up with an approach of how to handle it.

“Contract tracing” represents the primary response when there is a chance of a positive covid case among SHS athletes. Umbrianna says they “try to identify if that student has been in close contact with other athletes or coaches,” which helps determine how they should handle the issue. Mr. Umbrianna also says that SHS does notify the teams Scituate has played against if there is a positive case, but these teams don’t necessarily have to do anything with that information.  This is because “close contact” entails being “within 6 feet for less than 15 minutes.” For example, the girls’ field hockey team had to quarantine for 14 days even though it was their coach–not the athletes–who tested positive. The school administration wanted to approach the situation with the highest level of caution.  

There are also some precautions the athletics department has taken to avoid the chance of someone testing positive.  According to Umbrianna, “The big thing is wearing the mask–obviously, there are restrictions on the bus. We are only allowed one athlete per seat on the bus, leaving 25 in total.” The initial preparation process of sports being allowed came from the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA), which developed the state guidelines and created new rules for different sports. The EEA then gives the schools a “green light” to play specific sports as well as sharing the new rules and changes. Umbrianna says, “It’s kinda a long process, but it’s for the safety of the kids.”  

SHS parent Rita Sandner says she is completely comfortable with sending her child to school, saying, “The school has done a good job with taking caution toward the issue.” Sandner feels as though going to school only two days a week is better than none at all. She is happy the school took the time and consideration to make sure the students could come back safely.  Sandner explained she does get nervous about students testing positive but believes that “we as parents should make a bubble” to try and keep everyone safe. Sandner adds that she would feel comfortable sending her child to sports and activities in the school since “the benefits outway the risks.” 

SPS District Nurse Leader Kellie Roche says she and many others take many precautions and follow protocols to keep the students at SHS as safe as possible.  According to Roche, when there is a positive case, many important school figures and departments are notified, including the building school nurse, principal of the school where the case is located, the superintendent, Medical Advisory, Scituate Board of Health,  MA Department of Public Health, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They use contact tracing to help notify others who could be at risk and help decide who needs to quarantine or get tested. This process is different for each individual case.

Roche explained, “Anyone who has worked with me knows I’m a solid protocol and policy follower and don’t like grey areas. It’s important that no unilateral decisions are made, that each case is a collaboration, and we follow the expert guidance.” Roche was not worried about coming back to school but could understand some people’s hesitance. This is why she helped make the process for returning to school as safe as possible to eliminate the most anxiety. Roche said many people in the schools “worked all summer and had support and guidance from DPH, MA Epidemiologists, and our doctors.”

Roche said she will always stay committed to trying to keep “our students, staff, and families safe.” She says, “We brief weekly with our Medical Advisory Committee and are in constant communication with the Department of Public Health. We connect every evening with the director of the Scituate Board of Health and town officials with daily case counts.” Roche is very proud of how students at SHS are handling these difficult times and wants to keep students and families as safe as possible, even if this means shutting down school for short periods. Overall the school has tried its best to eliminate COVID cases and make SHS a healthy place to attend school.