Schools returning from holiday break in hybrid mode
Abington’s schoolhouse doors will swing open again Monday morning when the holiday break ends and classes gather for the first time in 2021.
In an email sent to the Abington school community Friday afternoon, Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer announced that the district will return to the hybrid learning model January 4 as planned, despite the region still experiencing a strong second wave of COVID-19 infections.
“Although this area has experienced a post-Thanksgiving and Holiday increase in identified COVID-19 cases, schools have not been the cause of the spread,” Schafer wrote.
“Green” cohort students will return to classes on Monday and Tuesday. “Wave” students will have their turn in the classroom on Thursday and Friday.
Abington schools finished the final two weeks of the 2020 calendar year in full remote learning mode as infection numbers spiked following the Thanksgiving holiday. Although the virus wasn’t spreading in town schools, the number of students and staff in isolation or quarantine in mid-December had made in-person learning a growing challenge logistically.
There were 148 active COVID-19 cases in town as of Dec. 31, according to the Abington Board of Health. The number of active cases has hovered between 120-140 over the past couple of weeks. The town’s positive test rate is about 11 percent — public health officials say an ideal positive test rate is about 1 percent. The state continues to see in excess of 6,000 new cases daily. The biggest one-day case jump back in the spring was 3,079 positive cases.
New vaccines continue to be distributed slowly. Educators in Massachusetts are currently not scheduled to receive vaccines until Phase 2, which is scheduled to start in February.
In an email to Abington News, Schafer said the decision to return to class under the hybrid model versus full-remote was “tough,” but after consulting town public health officials he feels it is the right decision for Abington’s 2,100 students.
“Although there are no absolutes, especially with safety, the schools have been safe places for students and staff,” he said. “The measures we have in place with masks, distancing, cleaning and hygiene are working.”
Schafer and Abington Board of Health Chairman Chris Schultz both stressed the importance of families following established COVID-19 rules to ensure students can continue attending class in person twice a week.
“Our collective goal is to have our students in school as much as possible. Adherence to the safety measures and protocols provides us the best opportunity for the most in-person learning possible,” Schafer wrote in his email announcement. “To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, PLEASE stay home when not feeling well or awaiting COVID-19 test results, wear a mask, adhere to physical distancing, and wash hands frequently.”
Schultz said the main cause of community spread remains people not isolating when symptomatic.
“We’re going to be in for a rough few weeks going forward,” Schultz said. “[I’m] just hoping everyone is smart in their interactions outside of school.”