Superintendent: No plans to go all-remote at high school despite COVID surge

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Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh, in an email to schools families Monday, stated that there are no plans to switch to a temporary all-remote learning model at Hopkinton High School despite a run on COVID-19 cases there.

In the past week there have been 12 cases at HHS: nine in-person students, one remote student and two staff, Cavanaugh stated, adding that the previous week there were five cases: four students and one staff member. She also noted that approximately 100 students are in quarantine for being close contacts.

Wrote Cavanaugh: “The commissioner of education, Jeffrey Riley, requires consultation with the superintendent when a district is contemplating closing a grade level, a school or a district. Because in these HHS cases we are not seeing in-school transfer but rather just students and staff testing COVID-19 positive, the commissioner would not consider this a reason to transition to remote learning. [The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s] argument is that by identifying the close contacts of COVID-19 positive people  and sending those close contacts home, the district is effectively removing ‘potential risk’ from the school. And, even though we have about 100 students currently in quarantine, DESE contends that 950 students can still attend school in person, which has a host of benefits over remote learning — some of which are academic and others that are social-emotional. Essentially, if only 1% of the high school population is positive, the commissioner would not consider that a reason to close the building for all of our students.”

After Thanksgiving break the schools went remote for one week in an attempt to avoid a spread. Cavanaugh indicated DESE’s approach has changed since then.

“We realize that there were times when the district did transition to remote learning; that said, DESE no longer uses the conservative approach that they used last fall, because they now know more about the virus and its transmission,” she wrote. “Essentially, DESE’s consultation team has said, ‘The last thing we want you to do is to keep students out of school.’ We understand that many faculty and families are struggling with this philosophy.”

Cavanaugh encouraged families to wear face coverings and practice proper hygiene and social distancing, and those in quarantine to avoid contact with others.

She also praised the district’s nurses.

“Please also know that our school nurses are working tremendously hard, 24-7, to conduct contract tracing and to work with families to monitor students who are positive,” she wrote. “They have been nothing short of amazing.”

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