Wellesley High School, which has been offering students a mix of in-person and remote learning this fall, has been forced to go all remote through Thanksgiving due to six new positive COVID-19 cases detected today via its surveillance testing program. Additional cases were revealed earlier in the week and last week, and 12 of 14 cases detected overall so far this school year have been at the high school.
Wellesley High athletics will be scrapped for the reminder of the fall season as a result of the spike in COVID-19 cases at the school. What becomes of winter sports remains to be seen.
“With this number of cases materializing in such a short period of time, the School and Health Departments agree that the most prudent step to take is to direct Wellesley High School to transition to full remote learning beginning tomorrow, November 12th, through the Thanksgiving holiday, with classes resuming in person on Tuesday, December 1st,” Wellesley Public Schools Supt. David Lussier and Wellesley Health Department Director Lenny Izzo wrote today to members of the Wellesley Community (full letter below).
All this against a backdrop of the state urging schools to get back in the classroom. “Fully remote instructional models should be implemented only as a last resort, and classrooms should reopen after appropriate mitigation strategies have been implemented,” according to the Commonwealth’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
WPS expects to receive more viral test results on Thursday from samples collected on Tuesday from students and staff.
The events at Wellesley High won’t immediately affect other schools in the system. WPS staff across the district, as well as Wellesley Middle School students, will continue to be tested under the voluntary surveillance program.
Lussier and Izzo wrote: “While we recognize that this news is disappointing, we are also reassured that we were able to identify these cases rapidly to stop any further transmission. It remains critical that we each do our part to stop the spread of the virus including wearing masks at all times, social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding gatherings. WPS will continue working in collaboration with the Wellesley Health Department to further assess this situation and determine any additional action steps.”
Wellesley High Principal Jamie Chisum added in a note to families that “I appreciate this is disappointing news for all of us. So many of us have worked so hard to keep our school open, we wish we didn’t have to move to remote learning right now.”
Chisum stressed his belief in the viral testing program, which is currently voluntary:
“I do want to thank all of the people who helped put our testing program in place. I do believe without a doubt it helped us here and that it has already prevented the spread of more cases than we already have. When we return it will be essential for everyone who can to be a part of our surveillance program moving forward.”
WHS is now closed to students, though they can arrange to pick up items if it’s urgent.
As we reported last week, some town officials and board members, including those from the Select Board, Board of Health and Advisory Committee, continue to raise questions about the testing program from a public health and financial perspective. They’ve all got some fresh data to mull now.
Lussier had cautioned recently that the upcoming holidays could be a flash point for members of the community letting their guard down related to COVID-19 protocols. Unfortunately, the virus has taken a toll on the school system even before we get to that point.
Thank you to those WPS parents who shared information with us, as well as the WPS and the town for sharing this info.