Hopkinton schools will go to a fully remote learning model for the week after Thanksgiving, superintendent Carol Cavanaugh told School Committee members Thursday night.
The move is designed to reduce the chances of possible increased COVID-19 cases due to traveling and socializing over the holiday break.
“A week after Thanksgiving, we could see a lot of positive COVID cases,’’ she said.
With even one positive case in the schools, “everything kind of stops’’ as school officials, including nurses and principals, gather and determine who the close contacts were and what the next steps could be.
More potential cases could be “far more disruptive,’’ she said.
“I know remote isn’t ideal,” she added, but given the potential for upswings in post-holiday cases, “it makes the most sense to be doing this.’’
She said that state education officials have “backpedaled’’ from previous warnings that schools that go fully remote after Thanksgiving could face an audit.
Committee chair Amanda Fargiano thanked Cavanaugh for making the decision early enough to allow families to plan.
Committee member Joe Markey reminded people that they should not travel or gather in groups during the holiday. “If you’re traveling, you’re putting the community at risk,’’ he said.
Cavanaugh also said that schools could return to full-time, in person learning in March or April.
Right now, with statewide cases on the increase, “This is not a good time to be thinking of coming to schools full-time,’’ she said.
But she said that when the cold and flu season passes, and with the potential of a vaccine on the horizon, the spring might be a good time to make the change.
One obstacle, she said, is the limited space for all students to return while maintaining a social distance, particularly during lunch.
Other area schools that have returned to full-time in-person education have more space to accommodate their students safely, she said.
Hopkinton schools could be looking at having students closer than 6 feet apart to allow a reopening, she said.
State education officials have mandated that all students who opt for fully remote learning must have that option through the end of the school year, Cavanaugh reminded committee members.
Surveys of parents and students have shown their enthusiasm for having children in school, she said. “It’s really good for kids to be here,’’ she said.
Markey, who has been an outspoken advocate of full-time, in-person education, said he was pleased to see that the district was looking ahead.
“We owe it to our kids to have a plan in place,’’ he said.