On the eve of the first day of classes for the 2020-2021 school year at Arlington Public Schools, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie announced Peirce Elementary School is switching to a fully remote learning model for a short period of time after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
The Arlington Board of Health facilitated free COVID-19 testing last Wednesday and Thursday for Arlington Public Schools staff on a voluntary basis. It wasn't until this weekend that the district learned of the staff member's positive test.
"From the start, our goal was to be proactive about reducing the risk of exposure. We prioritized providing testing and were able to do so thanks to a partnership with the Arlington Health Department," Superintendent Bodie said. "We're relieved and grateful we identified this case prior to the start of school, although we know this change poses challenges for our Peirce Elementary families and staff. Ultimately this is what our district needs to do and we appreciate everyone's cooperation and understanding."
The individual is isolating in accordance with Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol, the superintendent said, and will be eligible to return upon completion of a 10-day isolation period.
Six additional Peirce Elementary School staff members have been identified as close contacts of the individual, and were instructed by local public health officials to quarantine for at least two weeks from the date of exposure.
The earliest return date for any of those six individuals is Wednesday, Sept. 30.
With seven staff members quarantining, the elementary school faced staffing limitations that led officials to pursue the fully remote learning plan. It begins Monday, on the first day of classes, and will continue until Wednesday, Sept. 30 -- the earliest return date for any of the six staff members identified as close contacts of the person who tested positive for the virus.
The superintendent said no students have been in the buildings prior to the start of the school year, and none are believed to have been close contacts of any individuals now in quarantine.
The entire school was sanitized over the weekend by an electrostatic cleaning machine, in accordance with the district's regular COVID-19 cleaning protocols, Bodie said.
No changes have been made for the reopening plans at other other district schools, including Arlington High School, which is operating as planned with a fully remote model through late January as planned. All other schools will follow a hybrid learning model, according to Bodie.