Districts roll back reopenings amid case rise

Schools wary of return to in-person learning  

DOZENS OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS  shifted to remote learning for at least two weeks after the holidays in an effort to keep the virus out of schools in the event students and parents traveled or engaged in large-person events during the break.

Brockton, which has an 11.85 percent community positive test rate, is delaying its return to in-person learning for almost 400 high needs students, which was set for mid-January, by at least two weeks. Pre-K and kindergarten students, which have been remote, would return February 8.

“I would like to recommend a two-week delay in that just so we can see where these numbers go for the holidays,” Superintendent Michael Thomas told the school committee Tuesday. “I am concerned about the number of staff members who have COVID since November 27.”  

Brockton’s hospitals are experiencing hospitalization numbers not seen since late-May.

Other schools that remained hybrid after the holidays are switching to remote learning due to rising in-school cases. Students at Bagnall Elementary School in Groveland, with the exception of those with special needs, will move to fully remote learning beginning Thursday and continuing through January 15. The school committee for the Pentucket Regional School District, which the school is part of, demanded an emergency meeting after learning Bagnali had seven COVID-19 cases in December, a number that has doubled in the past week.  

In Worcester, school officials unanimously decided Thursday to delay the start of in-person learning indefinitely, after a date of January 25 had been set to return special needs students in-person.

The city’s medical director, Dr. Michael Hirsh, called the 31 percent testing positivity rate at the city’s “stop the spread” center “quite daunting,” and said there was great risk of adults working in the community transmitting the virus to students.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Freelance reporter, Formerly worked for CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Some districts have set a high bar for a return to in-person instruction. In Williamstown, the Mount Greylock School District announced it will remain in remote learning mode until Berkshire County’s positivity rate goes below 3 percent, along with three consecutive weeks of the area being designated as gray or green (low risk for COVID-19 spread) on the state’s dashboard.

The number of in-school positive cases continues to remain low, but is skewed by the holidays. Statewide figures for the last two weeks showed 431 staff and students testing positive, a drop from 949 for a similar period before Christmas, but this includes the period of winter break when fewer people were inside buildings.