Monson schools continue fully remote learning through January

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MONSON, Mass. (WWLP) – Schools in Monson began remote learning on November 19 when the district was anticipating bringing everyone back in-person on December 7. However, the superintendent notified parents Monday, the schools will not reopen until January 4.

Due to the increase of positive COVID-19 cases in Monson, the town is now listed as a high-risk area for spreading the virus.

In a message to the parents, Monson Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Clarke said “these numbers are alarming, and after discussion with our nurse leader and administrative team, this decision was made. We are hopeful that the numbers will trend downward in the upcoming weeks so that we can bring everyone back to the buildings safely.” 

According to Clarke, the school board approved standards for a return to in-person learning which is there must be less than 15 cases and at most a two-point-five percent positive test rate over a 14 day period.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health weekly report released Friday, Monson has a total of 130 cases with 39 in the last 14 days. The total tests performed were 5,651, 810 tests in the last 14 days resulting in 45 total positive tests.

Monson Public Schools Letter:

Dear Parents/Guardians:
On November 18, we moved to a fully remote model of learning for all students because of a concerning increase in positive COVID-19 cases in town, some of which were connected to our school community.  At that time, I indicated that we hoped to bring our students and staff back on December 7, and that that return could be delayed based on future data.  I am heartbroken to report that the number of positive cases for the Town of Monson this past week have trended sharply upward, necessitating that we continue in the present model of fully remote learning for all students.  The target date for return is January 4, 2021.  As before, should cases continue to rise, this return could be delayed as well.   Additionally, the Holiday Reverse Parade that was originally scheduled for this Friday, December 4, has been postponed to a date to be determined.

You may be aware that the State recently changed the metrics for a municipality to be given a red designation.  Populations are now taken into account, and for towns with populations of less than 10,000, at least 26 cases are needed to “go red” instead of the previous number of 8 per 100,000.
However, the School Committee unanimously approved a proposal I made which identified two additional metrics that must be met for our schools to remain open should the Town be designated high risk by the Department of Public Health:

·         Case Count of the last 14 days is 15 or less
·         Percent Positivity of the last 14 days is 2.5% or lower

Even with the new metrics, Monson has entered the red zone.  They are one of only eight municipalities in Western Massachusetts to do so.  The most recent data is below:

Average daily incidence rate per 100,000
Our target: 8
Last week: 20.4
This week: 33.2

Case Count Last 14 Days
Our target: 15
Last week:  24
This week:  39

Percent Positivity Last 14 Days
Our target: 2.5%
Last week: 3.27%
This week:  5.56%

Frankly, these numbers are alarming, and after discussion with our nurse leader and administrative team, this decision was made.  We are hopeful that the numbers will trend downward in the upcoming weeks so that we can bring everyone back to the buildings safely.

We understand this is not an optimal situation for many families, but as always, the health and safety of everyone in our school community must be our first priority.  Please know that our administrators, teachers and support staff will continue to do all they can to ensure your child receives a quality education throughout this difficult time.

As I did in the Spring, I will provide you with weekly updates throughout the coming weeks.  Also, do not hesitate to reach out to your building administration should you have any questions. 

Sincerely,
Cheryl A. Clarke, Ed.D.
Superintendent

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