October 29, 2020

Seekonk School Officials Will Monitor Covid-19 Data

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The Seekonk School Department plans to monitor the number of Covid-19 cases being reported on a weekly basis and will use that data to determine whether or not the schools can return to full classroom instruction, Superintendent Rich Drolet explained Monday. Schools will open on September 15 with a hybrid learning model.  The 75 page Comprehensive Return to School Plan is on the school department’s website: http://www.seekonk.k12.ma.us/

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), along with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, has provided school districts with a rolling 14-day metric to assist in setting transitions between learning models for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines are meant to supplement local decision-making policy by the School Committee and Board of Health.

Drolet explained the school department will review all locally applicable data, in coordination with the town’s Board of Health Agent Jessica Horsman, to determine the phase of learning model or if there is a need to transition between learning models, including to a fully remote model. The School Committee will review the data each Friday to determine any necessary changes in the learning model so families, faculty, and staff can plan appropriately.

According to DESE: “While average daily cases per 100,000 is the metric that determines the color coding for each community, districts/schools should also monitor whether cases are increasing or decreasing vs. the prior period. Monitoring positive testing also remains an important metric.”

“The local cases per 100,000 and the state positivity rate will be as reported in the DPH “COVID-19 Weekly Public Health Report” https://www.mass.gov/info-details/community-level-covid-19-datareporting.”

“If we need to go fully remote if numbers spike, then we would need to move quickly,” Drolet said, also noting if there was a period of several weeks or months with declining Covid-19 local and state rates, then a decision could be made to move to full in-person learning. “I also appreciate the data-driven decision-making here,” said Chairperson Kim Sluter. “I think it’s flexible enough that as we as a committee look at this data every week, we’ll be able to be flexible in making the decision.” “70 percent of all districts in Massachusetts are going with the hybrid model,” Sluter noted. “Seekonk remains focused on the safety of families and staff.  Please continue to take in this information with an open mind.  It is no doubt an emotionally charged issue. The plan is designed for long term and short term change.  We, and this plan must continue to be flexible.”

However, there is still concern among teachers about returning to the classroom during a pandemic. “We’re worried about causing an outbreak in this community,” said Sharon Ahern, President of the Seekonk Educators Association. “We love, care for, and miss our students,” Ahern continued. “We will always advocate for their safety and their best interests.”

Maryellen Lane was upset about derogatory comments being made about teachers on social media. “The Seekonk teachers are top-notch and we will bring it this year as best we can but to imply that we are lazy, unwilling to work or only concerned about our own health is by far the farthest thing from the truth,” Lane added.

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