When you look at the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases, we in Plympton are lucky to have few compared to neighboring towns. But it’s not just luck.
The smallest town by population in Plymouth County, Plympton was among the first to re-open its Town House on June 1, Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy said, and prior to that date with all of the departments working from home, “we were still able to successfully serve everyone who contacted us, while we were fully remote.”
Plympton’s Emergency Management Director, Fire Chief Steven G. Silva leads a coalition of departments within the town to bring things back to some semblance of normal. Team members include Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy, Board of Health Chairman Arthur Morin, Board of Health Assistant Cathy Ferguson, and Police Chief Matthew Clancy. Silva said he is heartened to see how people have come together to work things out. Peter Veneto, principal of the Dennett School, Debbie Batson, Library Director, Patricia Detterman, Town Clerk, and more – have all worked to document protocols for delivering services to the community in a safe manner.
Working in concert with the Board of Health Silva has introduced a new Community EMS Program that will takeover the duties performed by the Cape Cod Visiting Nurse Association. In the midst of the pandemic, the Cape Cod Visiting Nurse Association, who had formerly served several South Shore towns including Plympton, stopped services to towns off Cape giving towns six months notice to find other sources.
Chief Silva, after a September presentation to the Board of Health, has announced that the plan for Community EMS program has been submitted to the Department of Public Health and is awaiting approval.
What will Community EMS do for Plympton?
It uses personnel we already have, Silva explained, and gives a plan for implementing public health nurse services to the townspeople, working with Plympton’s Board of Health. Fire Captain Cheryl Davis, who has interacted with Plympton’s citizens on many occasions, will oversee the program. Davis has been with the Plympton Fire Dept. for 14 years and was recently brought on full time. Before accepting her position as a full time Captain and EMS coordinator, she was also a Lieutenant and shift commander with the Fall River Fire Dept. EMS division.
In addition, the Plympton Fire Department has also been trained in the use of MAVEN, a computer program that tracks cases of COVID and other infectious diseases, so up to date numbers of cases in the state as well as in the area are available to work out preventative measures.
Opening the Town House to Plympton residents was done safely June 1, according to Dennehy. Now, a member of the Plympton Fire Department signs you in, records what office you are seeing, does a thermo scan of your forehead to make sure you are fever free, and calls ahead to see that the office is available so proper distancing can be observed. Arthur Morin, Chairman of the Board of Health, says that to date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 attributed to the Plympton Town House.
Dennett Elementary copes with COVID
Peter Veneto, principal of the Dennett Elementary School, has been key in getting the school open safely this fall.
“We have made a number of changes here at Dennett to try to keep everyone as safe as can be. We have installed touchless faucets in all of our learning spaces and rest rooms as well as touchless paper towel dispensers. We have sanitizing stations outside of every space and by the recess doors. Students “pump in” and “pump out” when entering the building or leaving a room. We have had Plexiglas installed in the office, cafeteria and Nurse’s Office. We also have Plexiglas shields for any students receiving one to one instruction or special education testing. Our Director of Maintenance, Matt Durkee, assisted with getting the Plexiglas installed. He also helped with signage in the building and floor decals to help students maintain a six- foot space when waiting in lines.”
Veneto continued, “Most of these items were paid for through CARES Act funding.” In our classrooms, all students sit six feet apart from seat edge to seat edge. Students eat lunch in the cafeteria six feet from one another. It looks and sounds a lot different but the students are still able to talk and interact with one another. Everyone has done a great job wearing masks. Teachers try to get outside multiple times per day for mask breaks for our kids.
“From a procedural standpoint a lot has changed as well,” he said. “The vast majority of our students are dropped off in our car line in the morning. Using the Pick Up Patrol web based program, parents complete a health assessment every morning. An aide will stand in the hallway and confirm that students have no Covid symptoms before they go down to class. Once in the building, students have specific waiting areas and hallway directions to prevent a lot of face-to-face contacts. Playground equipment is sanitized every morning and the students line up 6 ft. apart coming back into the building. During lunchtime, students who have brought their lunch enter the cafeteria first and sit at the front of the room. Students who are buying lunch wait in line, get their lunch and fill in the open seats. Dismissal procedures are the same as drop off just in reverse.”
Those are the very general changes to our day. Each classroom has some smaller details specific to their grade level. The staff has done a nice job with these tweaks and our students have been phenomenal.”
“We’re well positioned now”
“Those of us in the Emergency Management Committee, I feel we’ve done a really good job getting things up and running,” Dennehy said. “Not that we’re looking for credit,” she continued, “People in town should be proud. We have made it reasonably safe for people to be more connected to the positive things going on here… We’re well positioned now. Obviously we will react to any new circumstance needed to keep people safe.” She continued that being a small town in this case seems to be an advantage in that we can change direction and implement new procedures more easily than a larger town might. She also said that she appreciates all the helpful people who have stepped up to volunteer wherever needed. “The Board of Health has been very quick to react to help keep us up to date on the state level,” she continued, and Plympton has been able to develop protocols adapted from neighboring communities. “Everyone is willing to accept new information,” she said. “It’s been a good learning experience.”
Library continues to provide services
Debbie Batson, library director, admits that it has been a challenging time to bring library services to the community. “We had to throw out all of our ideas for summer, and find other activities for kids.” The pinwheels on the library lawn, indicating how many books people have read were one way to encourage reading for all age groups.
“Back in June we were able to continue our book clubs via ZOOM,” Batson said. The adult book group meets on the second Tuesday of the month by Zoom. Contact the library at PLPcirc@sailsinc.org to get sign-in information. They are always looking for new members.
Story time for little ones continues through ZOOM, and each month there is a challenge. October’s was making a paper tube creature; bring it in to the library and get some “library loot”, a gift bag of library-inspired goodies. November’s challenge is creating or building something you’re thankful for. Challenge items will be displayed at the library.
In September there was a story walk outside the library where young patrons walked around outside to read the story. October saw a tiny “Jack be Little” pumpkin challenge,”I Spy … pumpkin search” where kids were given a printed list to search around outside to find each pumpkin with the required number, letter, or symbol on it.
Now through Dec. 17, join the Fall Book Harvest, a virtual reading challenge. Sign up at plympton.beanstack.org, log your reading online to earn virtual badges and chances to win a $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble. This challenge is open to kids through grade 6.
“Adult activities, that were held in the library – pre COVID – aren’t coming back so far, like Genealogy and knitting groups. We do offer ZOOM but they’re not interested right now. Maybe as the fall and winter limit outdoor choices, these activities will come back. We listen to our people and try to bring them what they want,” Batson said.
New Seniors Pantry and Freezer
Acting Council on Aging Director John Traynor has seen services to seniors continue without a hitch and there has been considerable progress made in the food pantry.
Due to the pandemic we made a decision to separate the joint use of the entranceway pantry by the Council on Aging (COA) and the townhouse staff. The townhouse staff now uses the pantry that was formerly used by the Police Department before they moved to their new headquarters. This has freed up the entranceway pantry to be solely used by the Council on Aging.
To abide by the Board of Health guidelines we put in place a new protocol for seniors wishing to access the pantry. When a person accesses the townhouse, they will be greeted by a Fire/EMS person who will perform a forehead thermal scan and ask what department they want. For the pantry they should ask for COA receptionist Jean who will then come to the entrance and escort them to the pantry to see the foods we stock. Only one senior at a time is allowed in with Jean. Then Jean selects the foods the senior chooses, takes them from the shelf or freezer and packages them. At no time is the senior allowed to handle the food. This is both for the safety of the senior and Jean.
We are grateful that the COA has been the recipient of a grant through Old Colony Elder Services that has allowed the COA to purchase a commercial size freezer from North American Restaurant Equipment in Smithfield, RI. This has enabled us to significantly enlarge the amount of frozen foods that we carry for seniors. The frozen and canned foods, plus vegetables, are obtained through the South Shore Community Action Council in Plymouth. We value their service.
Many thanks to Fire Chief Steve Silva and his wife Debra, who along with Fire Captain Cheryl Davis and Fire/EMS Amira Kim came in over the weekend of the freezer delivery to move and reinstall all the shelving and product. A special thank you also to Assistant Treasurer/Collector Christine Kelly and her son Sean for volunteering to come in over the weekend and restock the pantry.
Chief Silva is enormously pleased with the success of the work his committee has done to bring services to Plympton during this pandemic. It couldn’t be done without the help of volunteers.