It’s a New Year but in many ways it feels like a repeat.
We’re again looking at a surge in COVID cases that threatens to disrupt our healthcare systems, places of employment, the service sector, and schools.
Over the weekend, Abington broke more than 300 active COVID cases for the first time (it dropped to 297 Monday). That number is nearly triple where it stood two weeks ago and the numbers are expected to increase as everyone returns from their holiday break.
Another recurring problem is the shortage of quick tests. The testing line at Massasoit Community College this morning snaked through multiple parking lots, for example, just like it did in early 2021. Others report waiting hours to get a test.
There are differences, however, between this year and last. With a significant portion of the population fully vaccinated case severity isn’t what it was last year at this time. However the sheer number of people contracting COVID means that local hospitals are starting to feel the surge.
Another difference is that Abington schools returned from their holiday break on Monday for in person learning. Staff have been given a supply of masks and a home testing kit, if they want to check their status.
The CDC, partly in response to the need to keep businesses and organizations running, has dropped its isolation guidelines from 10 days to 5 days, provided that the person is asymptomatic and receives a negative test. But the new guidelines means teachers who test positive still have stay home for a minimum of 5 days.
The City of Brockton, for example, closed the high school Monday because so many teachers were going to be out. Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer said 14% of school staff were out Monday because they were either in isolation, in quarantine, or taking care of sick family members.
CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION MEETS THURSDAY
The board weighing changes to the town’s charter has invited town employees and department heads to its meeting Thursday. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the middle/high school seminar room. The public is welcome to attend as well. Masks are required.
FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETS WITH LIBRARY, FIRE, VETS, IT
The Finance Committee has already been discussing the FY 23 budget for a couple months but it starts its review in depth this Wednesday. It will meet with the heads of the town’s IT department, veterans services department, library, and fire department. Town Meeting is April 4. The town’s new fiscal year starts July 1.
SCHOOL COMMITTEE BUDGET HEARING TUESDAY
The School Committee has scheduled its annual budget hearing for Tuesday. The meeting will be held via Zoom starting at 7 p.m. School Superintendent Peter Schafer’s initial FY’23 budget asks for $28,034,824, or a 5.88 percent increase over the current school year’s budget. The budget includes just under $908,000 for contractually required pay increases, $200,000 to replace student laptops, and $279,000 for two high school and one elementary school teachers, plus one full time and two part-time ELL teachers. The full budget request is available here. The meeting will also be broadcast via Abington Community Access & Media.
Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes an order of conditions for 714 Bedford Street.
School Committee, 7 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes a report from school staff and a hearing on the FY23 budget.
Board of Assessors, 11 a.m., Town Hall. Agenda includes the month’s end report and motor vehicle excise taxes.
Finance Committee, 7 p.m., Town Hall. Agenda includes FY23 budget discussions with the Town Manager, Finance Director, and heads of IT, veterans services, library, and fire.
Charter Review Commission, 6 p.m., M/HS Seminar Room. Agenda includes reviewing the existing charter, hearing from the public.