Another case spike; more than 130 students and staff in “close contact” quarantine
[This is breaking news and this article will be updated throughout the night.]
Abington students will learn from home fulltime for the next two weeks, Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer announced Monday afternoon due to another spike in COVID-19 cases including the first known transmission in a school building.
Schafer made the decision after consulting with town health officials Monday. The number of positive cases had dropped to eight last week, but has jumped back up to 20. Town Health Agent Marty Golightly estimated there are currently 150 Abington residents in quarantine due to being a close contact with someone who tested positive, including 130 students and staff.
Health officials said some of the spike is due to Abington residents breaking quarantine early, going out while sick, or going out while waiting for test results (that come back postive).
“People are most infectious on their first day of symptoms,” Board of Health Chairman Chris Schultz said. “It is paramount if we want to get back on track that people stay in quarantine for the full 14 days regardless of test results and stay home if they feel sick.”
Learning will take place remotely until Nov. 12.
“This period of separation of individuals provides time for the number of cases of the virus in the community to decrease,” he wrote in an email sent to parents and guardians Monday afternoon.
School Committee Chairwoman Wendy Happle said she was disappointed schools are taking a step backwards as she feels kids were benefitting emotionally from being in class two days a week. But she said the school department can’t ignore a recommendation from the town Health Agent.
“This isnt what any of us on the School Committee want to see happen and it’s not something Peter wants either, but Peter has stated numerous times that the health and safety of our students and staff come first,” she said. “So if there is a spike, or the numbers aren’t pointing in the right direction, then shutting down to regroup is the only option.”
Students will be taught through a combination of live whole class instruction, teacher-led small group work and independent work.
Parents will receive specific information about schedules, assignments and expectations from teachers, Schafer said.
Schafer initally told Abington News Sunday night that as long as the school system wasn’t causing the vorus to spread, classrooms would remain open. He did add a caveat that “All of that could change at any moment.”
That change happened Monday when the town was notified of additional positive tests, including “verified community spread at one of the schools,” according to Golightly.
Dear Parents, Caregivers, and Guardians,
The Abington Public Schools, in collaboration with the Abington Health Agent, Public Health Nurse and Board of Health, have determined that due to the increase number of cases of COVID-19 in Abington, we are shifting to the remote learning model for all students effective tomorrow Tuesday, October 27, 2020. The planned date of return is Thursday, November 12. This period of separation of individuals provides time for the number of cases of the virus in the community to decrease.
We know this is a hardship as you juggle work with supervising your children at home. There is no replacement for in-person learning and the connections between students and teachers and peers. However, the safety of our students, staff and community at large remain our top priority. Abington is also currently in the third week of being designated as a community in the Red (higher risk) category for cases by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and as you know, we have recently communicated a number COVID-19 cases showing transmission in the community causing widespread quarantining of students and staff.
Time has been spent planning for the three possible types of learning full in-person, hybrid and remote. Teachers will use a combination of best practices, including live whole class instruction, teacher-led small group work, and independent student work to help keep your children engaged and learning. You will receive specific information about schedules, assignments and expectations from your child’s school and teachers.
There is no doubt that all of us, most importantly our students, will be disappointed. It is important for them to know that we are eager to return to our school buildings as soon as possible.
We appreciate your partnership as we navigate through this unprecedented time.
Superintendent of Schools