There's been a last-minute change to remote learning for Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School after a party over the weekend with an estimated 50-60 high school students allegedly not wearing masks and not social distancing.
Superintendent and Principal Bella Wong said an estimated 15 students ran into the woods and another 13 students gave police false information. So school and health officials are unable to identify, test, monitor and isolate students who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
“It’s a huge problem and it trickles down. People have siblings," said Colleen Mazin, a Lincoln-Sudbury mom. "Luckily, elementary is going back for now, but if there is a case and it spreads, it’s a huge problem.”
The high school, which was scheduled to start hybrid on Tuesday, will now be all remote for 14 days.
“After the intensity of hard work and planning that has been done to be able to start school with students in-person, we are profoundly disappointed at this sudden change of plans,” Wong said in a letter to parents.
“I’m just thinking maybe the parents need to step up a little bit more,” said fellow parent Susan Haney.
“I think we just have to really crack the whip with everybody," said Joan Robinson, who lives in a neighboring community. "I’m just so sick of hearing that people are being so careless.”
“It is something that is going to be hitting every town at some point,” health care worker Joan Zagame said.
One high school parent and her daughter who didn’t want to go on camera said that, while disappointed by the move, they don't think it changes much because the school is only doing hybrid half days anyway.
But not everyone agrees.
“A lot of people rely on school and they’re planning to go back to work and it’s difficult for parents and kids that weren’t involved that wanted to go back,” Mazin said.
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The Sudbury Board of Health is asking anyone who attended the party to be tested for COVID and to notify both the Health Department and the school district if students become symptomatic.
A similar situation has unfolded in the Dover-Sherborn Regional School District, where a shift to remote learning to begin the year has been brought on by another gathering of students not practicing social distancing.
Police in Sherborn responded to a house party with an estimated 100-150 people on Friday, where guests scattered into the woods upon their arrival. The party was hosted by a Dover-Sherborn high school student whose mom tells us fewer than 10 friends were invited, but it spread like “wildfire” on social media and students from several different towns started showing up.
"It is a bit of a bummer and it makes me feel embarrassed for my town and community that stuff like that is going on," said student Robby Van Riet, who did not attend the party."
In a letter to the community Monday, Dover-Sherborn Superintendent Andrew Keough said that hybrid learning at the high school will be delayed until Sept. 21 instead of Sept. 15. Students who attended the party are asked to undergo testing for COVID-19 no later than Sept. 16, given its typical incubation period.
In addition, Keough said it was "strongly encouraged" that siblings of students who attended the party should remain remote until the 21st.
"As the leader of our schools, I feel some ownership for not conveying the importance to our school community of responsible behavior," Keough wrote. "To those who have worked so hard to make our reopening happen, I want to say I am sorry. To those whose lives have now been needlessly disrupted, I want to apologize to you, too. Finally, to those who are at high risk of illness or live with the fear of becoming sick, I want to assure you that we will try harder."
If cases of Coronavirus pop up and are tied to the party, in-school learning could be postponed even more.
"Learning online the entire time is tough," said student Grady Russo, who did not attend the party. "It would be much easier if we could go into school."