School Committee Votes Unanimously To Cancel April Break Field Trips To Europe Amid Coronavirus Outbreak. District Music Concert Canceled

Superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea starts out the Tuesdaay March 10th School Committee Meeting by offering a report on how the coronavirus is affecting the district and where the district is in its preparations. He announced the canceling of out-of-state travel, state recommendations, and the ban on large gatherings. Later on in the meeting the School Committee voted unanimously with the recommendation of the Superintendent to cancel the international April break trips to Italy and France. LCTV BROADCAST

As of Thursday March 12, coronavirus cases in Massachusetts climbed to 108 according to information from Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). New York has reported 216 cases, New Hampshire and Rhode Island both have five, Connecticut has three, and Vermont has two cases according to Johns Hopkins University data compiled from the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There are no known cases in Hampden County. In response, Governor Charlie Baker, who returned early from a skiing vacation in Utah, has declared a State of Emergency for Massachusetts on Tuesday. Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) Commissioner, Jeff Riley has also strongly urged all school districts to cancel all out-of-state travel at this time. This is in addition to Baker’s administration’s existing request for schools to cancel international trips. Longmeadow High School had its English school trip to New York and Music trip to Philadelphia canceled. Tuesday evening, the School Committee voted unanimously against approving field trips to Italy, Greece, and France.

The School Committee meeting Tuesday began with Superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea giving a report on the district’s preparation for the coronavirus. Dr. O’Shea said “we unfortunately are in a position that we will have to cancel any large public gatherings hosted [at] LPS.” As a result, the district-wide music concert Wednesday was canceled. He also announced that the district will be canceling all school trips that would take students out of state. Dr. O’Shea says, beginning Wednesday “we will be pulling together stakeholders to consider continuity of operations… to do contingency planning… we want to be prepared for some of the ‘what ifs’.” He also informed the board of the “wiggle room” the district has been given on the 180 school day requirement. DESE has announced Tuesday that the longest that any school district will be required to go is its scheduled 185th day. No schools will be required to be in session after June 30th. 

Many universities in the Northeast have closed campuses and have had undergraduates move out of their dorms. Some Eastern Mass. Public School districts have been closed from a day up to three days for deep cleaning and disinfection. Dr. O’Shea says that the district will begin looking at how the school would/could handle online learning: “there’s a lot of logistical challenges there, it’s uncharted territory for so many of us.”

Later in the meeting the trips scheduled for this April break, one to Italy and Greece, the other to France, were unanimously voted against. School Committee Member Kevin Shea inquired if families would be reimbursed for the cost of the field trip. Dr. O’Shea answered, “Mr. [Paul] Dunkerly [and] Mr. [Thomas] Landers have been in regular touch with WorldStrides –the [field trip] organization– to try to advocate for our families as best they possibly can. I’m not sure if we could have more recourse with the Italy trip than with the France trip given the conditions [in] Italy.” As of Monday, the whole of Italy has been placed on lockdown. Dr. O’Shea noted that there may be some action taken by the state School Superintendents’ Association, or that the state Attorney General’s Office may jump into this issue of reimbursement for canceled trips. “We will continue to advocate for our families,” he said. The travel organization has spoken about travel vouchers (that Dr. O’Shea understands are transferable since they would be of little use to graduating seniors). The travel company has said they are not traveling to Italy, but as of Tuesday, they see no problem with traveling to France. The company has also offered the option of an alternative trip. Dr. O’Shea says, “ultimately the contract is between the families and the travel organization.”

At LHS, a trip to New York for English students to see To Kill A Mockingbird, a Music Department overnight trip to Philadelphia, and an AP Biology trip to Amherst College’s Beneski Museum, were canceled. While the New York and Philadelphia trip was canceled by the district Tuesday, the AP Biology trip was canceled Monday, March 9, by Amherst College. The museum is closed to the public until further notice in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

Public Health Commissioner, Monica Bharel, says the focus now shifts from containing the virus’s spread to mitigating it. A health department expert has been dispatched to help with the Berkshire County outbreak which has no known origin signifying community transmission. With mitigation, the goal becomes slowing the outbreak’s progress so the health care system does not become overwhelmed with too many patients at once.

Thanks to the State of Emergency declaration, Baystate Medical Center can now screen patients by telephone. The hospital’s website instructs all with a fever or cold to restrain from visiting the hospital and instead call. According to the guidance issued to providers available online, hospitalization (and, as such, testing) will only be recommended for patients who show low blood pressure, tachycardia (fast heart rate), shortness of breath, dehydration, and altered mental states. All other “moderate” patients will be advised to stay home.

The CDC advises people to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home if you are sick and cover all coughs and sneezes.

Track Coronavirus Cases with JHU’s Live Coronavirus Case Tracking Map:


MDPH Current Case Number (Updated at 4pm daily): https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-cases-in-massachusetts-march-12-2020/download

Read More About The State Of Emergency Declaration: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/10/metro/mass-legislative-leaders-propose-15-million-coronavirus-package/

What is a State Of Emergency: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/state-of-emergency-information

LCTV video from the School Committee Meeting Tuesday March 10th:

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