Another High School Party Forces a Massachusetts School District to Go Remote

Austin Prep in Reading is the latest school to delay the start of classroom learning due to COVID-19 concerns

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For the third time in the past week, a large high school party has forced a Massachusetts school district to move to remote-only learning over fears about spreading COVID-19.

Austin Preparatory School in Reading announced that they will go remote after learning of a party attended by students.

In the past week, similar incidents have been reported involving the Dover-Sherborn, Lincoln-Sudbury and Dedham school districts.

Here's a closer look at each of the four incidents:

Austin Prep

Austin Preparatory School, a private Catholic school, announced Tuesday that about 40 students attended a party, forcing the school to go to full remote learning for 14 days.

“Unfortunately, like other secondary schools in Massachusetts which encountered similar activity this past weekend, we too are now impacted by poor decisions that students are making during a public health crisis,” Head of School James Hickey said in a statement to the Boston Herald.

Hickey said the party will be investigated, and the students held accountable. The move to remote learning will also impact tryouts for fall sports.


Andrew Keough, superintendent of Dover-Sherborn Public Schools, said in an email to parents Monday that school would begin remotely for all high school students as a result of a party held Friday night.

Police responded to the party that had between 100 and 150 people who weren’t wearing marks or social distancing and were “drinking in excess,” he said.

“In choosing to flout the rules set down by society in the pandemic, they have now put us all at risk,” Keough said. "We have no way of knowing the names of all of the people who attended the party or whether they might have been exposed to the Coronavirus."

Emergency board of health meetings were held this weekend in Dover and Sherborn. The high school’s hybrid learning plan is now delayed until Sept. 21.

The Dover-Sherborn Regional School District shifted to a remote start to the school year after more than 100 students attended a house party over the weekend.


Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School also recently announced that it would switch to remote-only learning after about 50 to 60 students attended a party without wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

The party involved alcohol and a “complete lack of safety precautions to protect against the spread of COVID,” Lincoln-Sudbury Principal Bella Wong said in a letter to the school community.

Police who broke up the gathering said about 15 students ran into the woods, and 13 gave fake names to officers, she said.

Because it’s not clear exactly who attended the party, the Sudbury Board of Health is mandating that all high school students must undergo full remote learning 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 her letter.


School officials have delayed the start of in-person classes in Dedham indefinitely after a series of gatherings that violated the state's COVID-19 social-distancing rules. Classroom learning was supposed to start up on Sept. 21.

Dedham had already been dealing with two clusters of coronavirus cases believed to be linked to two Boston Bruins watch parties attended by young people. One of the parties was attended by high school students and led to 26 coronavirus cases.

Students will still begin school fully remote as planned on Sept. 16, but the first phase to bring them back in the classrooms will no longer begin, as originally scheduled, on Sept. 21. All in-person learning plans have been postponed by the district with updated timing contingent on the trajectory of the virus in the community. 

"That's the most disappointing thing about this is that a lot of people put a lot of effort into getting us ready to go back to school," Dedham Town Manager Leon Goodwin said.

After the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, was added to the state's list of high-risk COVID-19 communities, town officials held a meeting Friday to announce free testing will be available to get a better handle on the situation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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