COVID Outbreak Forces Classes Online at Curley School in JP

The Jamaica Plain school, which serves K-8 students, is closed for in-person learning Wednesday and will reopen on Nov. 22

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The Curley School in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood is going remote for 10 days due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Superintendent of Boston Public Schools Brenda Cassellius announced the cancelation of in-person classes at the K-8 school Tuesday, citing a “rapid increase of positive COVID-19 cases in a short period of time.”

At least 46 positive COVID cases have been reported among staff and students, impacting 21 classrooms across multiple grade levels.

The Curley School in Jamaica Plain is going remote for 10 days due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

"Due to a recent increase in positive cases of Covid-19 at the Curley, across multiple grade levels and classrooms over the last week, the Boston Public Health Commission has advised to close the school for in-person learning," Principal Katie Grassa said in a statement posted to the school's website Tuesday. "This is an active effort to immediately stop the spread and provide time to add staffing capacity to fully implement the test and stay and contact tracing programs."

The school, which serves K-8 students and is located in Jamaica Plain, will be closed for in-person learning starting Wednesday and reopening on Nov. 22.

"A lot more schools are using sort of test and stay approaches, for example, where you can try to monitor the state of the virus in a classroom or in a school," said Dr. Rick Malley with Boston Children's Hospital.

Malley says the rapid in-school testing through contact tracing can help in many instances to target where the spread is to try to contain any potential outbreaks.

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"My daughter was just telling me, they test like every day, so she's like, 'Oh yeah, mom, it's a little uncomfortable,' but she's OK with it," said Dorchester parent Niosa Docanto.

"I think they"re doing what they can. It sounds like they don't have much of a plan for remote school, and DESE doesn't have any kind of plan, they just say it doesn't count, so that's concerning," said parent Jonathan Reovan.

Boston Public Schools is still finalizing a plan for students to access learning remotely during this time. Plans are also in the works to allow students to access food while they are home. Details are expected to be released on Wednesday.

Conversely, schools in Andover and Lynnfield also saw COVID-19 case numbers spike to concerning levels over the past week, but have managed to remain open so far.

Malley says while pediatric immunizations can certainly help, community spread of COVID-19 still plays a big role in the case numbers within schools.

"The best way to keep our kids in school is to really suppress the virus in the community at large," he said.

The Boston Public Health Commission is also advising anyone who has been on campus to self-isolate and avoid large groups or gatherings including athletic or social events for at least five days and until they receive a negative COVID-19 test, regardless of vaccination status.

"Please stay home and seek guidance from your medical professional if you develop any symptoms," the school said in its statement.

The school has about 1,000 students and about 100 teachers. Its principal said the move will provide time to add staffing capacity to fully implement contact-tracing programs.

"I'm happy that school is showing the responsibility before the problem could get even worse," parent Matthew Langhirt said.

A middle school in Jamaica Plain is the first in Boston to go remote this school year due to a cluster of COVID-19 cases.

The school hosted a community meeting online Tuesday evening.

"I just feel overwhelmed, really sad and dejected that we can't move forward," Spanish teacher Meagan Reider said.

"We knew it was kind of coming," art teacher Katherine Freiburger said in an interview. "We've gotten a lot of emails about students and staff coming into the building with COVID. We did this all last year. Like, the entire year we did this, so we know how to do this!"

Boston Public Schools have reported 401 COVID-19 cases so far this year, averaging around 40 to 50 cases a week until the most recent report. The report for Oct. 28 to Nov. 3 showed 109 cases, much higher than the 32 cases reported just a week earlier.

Through Nov. 3, the Curley School had reported 14 total coronavirus cases, but seven of those were reported in the most recent 7-day period.

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