COVID cases in schools rise, but closure isn’t being considered

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North Attleborough High School

By Max Bowen-Max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

COVID-19 cases have risen dramatically in area classrooms, but School Superintendent John Antonucci says a return to remote learning isn’t in the plan.

At a recent School Committee meeting, Antonucci said that in the North Schools there have been 60 cases of COVID in November, 34 the last two weeks. He added that this spike is being seen everywhere—recent ones are attributed to Thanksgiving gatherings—and that North Attleborough is seeing fewer than approximately 80 other Massachusetts communities.

Antonucci said that with the appearance of the Omicron variant in the U.S., it’s been asked whether a return to remote schooling may happen. He said that at this point, communities are learning to live with the virus.

At this point, it’s sort of all systems go,” said Antonucci. “Remote isn’t even an option. I feel pretty good about how we’re handling it and responding to the cases.”

The superintendent said following the meeting that staff are able to handle the testing, contact tracing, and managing absences.

We’re teaching, we’re learning,” he said on Thursday. “But with some bumps in the road.”

According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), remote learning does not count toward the 180 days of school that must occur during the academic year. Antonucci said there hasn’t been any updates to this guidance.

People are more anxious now than earlier in the year,” he said.

According to the town’s Board of of Health, the town has seen 3,535 COVID cases, 96 of which were reported in the last week of November—277 were seen in that month. The town’s positivity rate is at approximately 7 percent

Statewide, a mask mandate is in effect for schools, including students, faculty, and visitors. This will remain in effect until Jan. 15 unless schools can achieve an 80 percent vaccination rate. North Schools have COVID tests available for those showing symptoms or have come in close contact with those that test positive.

DESE keeps a tally of COVID cases, updated every two weeks. From Nov. 18-Dec. 1, 8,513 cases in schools were reported. In Attleboro schools, 72 COVID cases were reported over the last two weeks. Mansfield has seen 14, Plainville has had 4, and Wrentham saw 12.