Public schools in Lawrence, Massachusetts will continue with full remote learning for at least six weeks amid increasing rates of COVID-19 transmission in the city.
Superintendent Cynthia Paris said in a letter to families the district would postpone any in-person learning until at least Nov. 30. The decision was made in collaboration with local leaders, Paris said.
The move impacts the city's previously announced phase-in reopening plan under which hundreds of students were expected to return to schools on Oct. 19.
Lawrence has been hit hard by COVID-19. It is one of the dozens of municipalities designated as high-risk communities by the state.
"We don't celebrate anything, we just stay at home and do our work," fifth grader Yerik Guardado said of how his school year is going.
School committee member Jonathan Guzman says there is no other way right now, even as they weigh the importance of getting high-needs students back in classrooms as soon as possible.
"We are one highly contagious community right now," Guzman said. "We want to make sure that when our schools are safe and sound for everybody to come back and have 100-percent education without worrying about their lives."
With so much at stake, parents are supportive.
"We understand that it is for their own safety, not something they want to, but have to do for their own safety," one mom said.
Paris stressed in her letter to families that the Nov. 30th date is a target date to get high-needs students back in the classroom. Other students would follow after that, but it will all come down to the COVID numbers and how they're trending.
"I don't want to get sick or my family," Guardado said.
Elsewhere in the state, the Daniel Webster Elementary School in Marshfield will be closed for at least two weeks following several recently confirmed coronavirus cases, the Patriot Ledger reported.
Superintendent Jeff Granatino said in a letter to parents the school did not have enough staff to safely continue with its hybrid model. The district will reassess the situation next week to determine when it might be safe to reopen the school, the paper said.
Massachusetts health officials on Thursday announced that 106 students and 57 staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week, an increase over the previous week.
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The cases were reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education between Oct. 1 and Oct. 7, and includes students who have participated in in-person or hybrid learning at 61 school districts, collaboratives and special education schools.
The numbers were an increase over the 61 cases among students and 35 among staff members reported from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30.