Back to school

Students return to classrooms; parents rejoice

Abington’s classrooms are opening back up Thursday for the first time in more than two weeks after they were closed in an effort to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the town’s schools. 

The “Wave” cohort of students will return to school this Thursday and Friday. The “Green” cohort will continue with remote learning the rest of this week before heading back in next Monday and Tuesday. 

“I cannot tell you how forward I am looking to getting back to anything close to normal,” Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer said. 

Schafer on October 26 moved all classes online after consulting with town health officials amidst a spike in local cases of COVID-19. Abington Health Agent Marty Golightly said he had received information earlier in the day that indicated the virus had spread among students in the classroom. On the day of the announcement, more than 130 members of the school community — including a number of teachers, support staff and administrators — were in quarantine for having come in close contact with an infected person. 

The move to remote learning was intended to set up an immediate firewall between students, staff, and families and prevent the virus from spreading further. A handful of additional positive COVID-19 cases have been reported among students and staff since the move to remote learning, but no additional school community members had to be quarantined.  

“There’s no more identified classroom spread,” Golightly said. “It looks like by acting early and fast that we stopped the classroom spread which will allow us to go back [to the hybrid model.” 

Schafer said they are reviewing any possible changes that can be made to reduce risk of another outbreak.

Golightly said the schools and health department “learned a lot” from the school shutdown, specifically, that a district-wide shutdown may not always be required. 

“We may be able to go grade-by-grade, or classroom-by-classroom,” he said. “A middle school outbreak may not effect the Woodsdale, which is obvious now, but at the time when we’re looking at positive cases across all grades, it’s hard not to see that and react to that.”

Abington has 28 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday afternoon, with 33 residents in quarantine due to coming in close contact with an infected person. Statewide, Massachusetts is seeing a sharp spike in case numbers. The state Department of Public Health announced Wednesday afternoon that there were 2,495 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number in months. When Abington schools last met in person on Oct. 26, there were 1,216 new cases that day.  

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