PROVINCETOWN — Students in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade are on track to return to school on Monday, after a staff member’s positive Covid test prompted a 14-day switch to remote learning that began in the last week in January.
“We had several members of the school community who were symptomatic in addition to learning that we had at least one positive case,” said Supt. Suzanne Scallion in an email. “We have since learned we have two additional positive cases and are working with the Board of Health and Department of Education.”
It was the first time since opening last fall that all students were put on remote learning. “We have had single classes quarantine out of an abundance of caution when there was any suspicion of Covid or while awaiting known contacts,” the superintendent said.
Scallion said the plan will be re-evaluated at the end of this week to make sure Monday’s return to school remains safe. All grades will resume the ongoing hybrid model of in-house classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and remote classes on Wednesday to allow for a deep cleaning of the two school buildings.
A new protocol will be in place for students and staff. The state is picking up the cost for a pool testing program over the next eight weeks along with the addition of a per diem nurse, Scallion said.
Short Q-tips will be used to swab the nostrils of students and staff at the school. In many cases, students can do their own swabbing, she said. The Q-tips will be bundled into batches of 24, which will then be tested by the state. Positive results would prompt further testing of individuals and staff within that bundle.
Parents can opt out for their students, but Scallion plans to strongly urge participation.
The quick switch to full remote learning at the end of January didn’t present many challenges, according to Scallion, since classes are already remote one day each week.
David McGlothlin and Beth Francis, co-presidents of the local teachers’ union, the Provincetown Association of Educators, had only positive comments about the current school year.
“Our two buildings just went through a major renovation of their air systems, so we don’t have a lot of concerns other schools have with aging buildings,” McGlothlin said. “I have family members in other school districts and, compared to the stories I’ve heard, Provincetown has done an amazing job of keeping safe.”
The size of the buildings and small school population also allows for effective social distancing, the union leaders said.
“We’ve been working hard, and everybody has supported each other,” Francis said. “Our size allows us to respond almost immediately to needs and concerns.”
Students will have classes during the next week, but then have school vacation the week after that.
Nauset School District Supt. Thomas Conrad shifted to fully remote learning at Stony Brook Elementary School and Eddy Elementary School, both in Brewster, on Jan. 28, “in the interest of public health,” according to the district’s website. The students won’t return to school until Feb. 22.
“It is our hope that during the period of remote learning and school vacation that the cycle of increased transmission will have subsided,” wrote Conrad.
In the final week of January, three Falmouth students, two Mashpee students and one staff member, two students in the Dennis-Yarmouth district, and three Barnstable staff members tested positive for coronavirus, according to the state Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education.