A Massachusetts middle school will be closed for cleaning Friday amid an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
School officials in Concord said they've been watching the outbreak at Peabody Middle School in grade six. So far this week, they've seen 44 reported cases, and a significant number of absences, according to a letter to families from Superintendent Laurie Hunter.
In light of the rising numbers, district officials, in consultation with local public health officials and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, decided to cancel classes and close school Friday to allow sick students a chance to recover and to curb the further spread of the virus. They expect to reopen Monday.
Officials stressed that the other schools in the district have low COVID counts.
"All other schools will operate normally and remain mask optional tomorrow. No one can quite explain why these events are occurring in such an isolated way so far. Clearly, exposure at school played a role. We will continue to work with health officials and DESE to determine any other necessary mitigation steps," Hunter wrote in the letter.
During the closure, the school will be cleaned. Sixth grade students and staff were provided antigen tests to use before returning Monday, or if they start showing symptoms.
Massachusetts has seen a decline and leveling off of COVID-19 cases since the omicron peak in January, prompting towns, cities and school districts to weigh lifting pandemic safety restrictions like mask mandates. However, public health officials are carefully watching an increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe believed tied to a "stealth" subvariant of the omicron strain. It is too soon to know if this could mean another increase in cases in the U.S.