The Mashpee Public School District has had an average number of COVID-19 cases compared to other school districts, District Nurse Coordinator Stacey Shakel told the Mashpee School Committee during its meeting Wednesday, November 18.

There have been five positive COVID-19 results within the Mashpee school district as of Wednesday.

Twenty-three percent of, or 351, students and staff have been monitored, assessed or referred to their primary care physicians due to symptoms of illness and contact-tracing-related monitoring from October 16 to November 18, Ms. Shakel said. The district has 1,502 enrolled students in total.

Ms. Shakel said that of the 351 people, 217 were tested for COVID-19, and 212 of those tested negative for COVID-19.

Of the 351 people, 134 received a differential diagnosis such as strep throat or the flu.

“We take everyone’s safety as paramount,” Ms. Shakel said.

The school nurses’ offices have been dealing with thousands of calls from parents and guardians.

“Needless to say we’re on the phone a lot,” Ms. Shakel said, adding that she encourages anyone to call with questions or concerns.

“No one is bothering me,” she said. “Ask the questions; please don’t sit with it. This is what I’m here for.”

Ms. Shakel said her personal cellphone number is on the school flyers and handouts.

“We are communicating, and that is key,” she said. “And that is why I think it is working. People are being honest. I believe schools are safe because you have constant contact tracing through attendance, location, seating charts, class lists, lunch, recess. All of that data is reviewed as it applies to the situation.”

In addition to contact tracing inside schools, Ms. Shakel said she coordinates with the Mashpee Recreation Department and will ask students who their friends are or if they take driver’s education.

But she admits she cannot trace everything.

“Contact tracing takes on a whole different meaning for each day of the week,” she said.

Part of contact tracing is normal for Ms. Shakel, she said, because medical personnel have previously had to contact trace for measles, mumps, H1N1 (swine flu) and other infectious diseases.

“Right now we are not seeing community spread in our town or in our schools, but again we are watching it constantly,” Ms. Shakel said.

Barnstable County is seeing clusters of cases.

Since the Thanksgiving holiday is Thursday, November 26, Ms. Shakel said the amount of travel and how the community acts moving forward will determine the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the schools.

“My intention for tonight is to remind people of the governor’s advice of the travel guidance,” she said.

The month of November is a special month for the Mashpee community not only because of Thanksgiving but also because it is National Native American Heritage month.

Superintendent Patricia M. DeBoer said, “Normally we’d have a much more rich cultural assembly,” but, because of COVID-19, no assembly is possible.

Instead, the schools have celebrated the local culture by allowing students to “rock their mocs,” or moccasins, and other Native American attire last week.

Ms. DeBoer said five inspiring Wampanoag tribal members have been selected for the students to learn about this month in history lessons.

“There’s the spirit of celebration in school right now,” Kenneth C. Coombs School principal Deborah Goulart said.

In addition to National Native American Heritage month, it was also Veterans Day last week.

“November has always been a month of gratitude,” Quashnet Elementary School principal MaryKate O’Brien said. “One of the things we have always focused on is thanking our veterans.”

Quashnet would normally host an assembly for local veterans, but COVID-19 made it impossible this year.

Ms. O’Brien said some teachers have put together a mailbox and encouraged the students to make cards and notes to send to veterans who would normally come to the assembly.

Many of the notes went to David Williams, a 6th grade teacher who was deployed in the military this fall.

“You mean a lot to me. I’m not getting all my work done, but I will for you,” Ms. O’Brien read one of the student’s notes addressed to Mr. Williams.

A lot of the other notes are going to local nursing homes.

“We miss seeing all of our veterans come in,” Ms. O’Brien said.

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