A Massachusetts high school is delaying its transition to hybrid learning and cancelling sports for two weeks after Franklin police broke up an indoor Halloween party that up to 50 students attended without wearing masks or social distancing.
Franklin High School will remain fully remote for two more weeks after Saturday night's underage drinking party violated multiple coronavirus precautions, Superintendent Sara Ahern and Principal Josh Hanna announced Sunday.
The high school will remain fully remote until at least Monday, Nov. 16, school officials said, and all of their athletic practices and games will be cancelled for two weeks, as well.
"We are disappointed to share that despite the excitement, preparation, and planning to welcome students to FHS for hybrid instruction, this transition will be delayed by two weeks as a result of a public health concern related to an underage drinking party that occurred last evening," Ahern and Hanna said in a joint letter to members of the school community.
The party, which occurred at a home in Franklin, was attended by 25-50 high school students, though officials say many attendees scattered when police showed up, meaning they've been unable to identify all partygoers. Should any positive COVID-19 cases arise from the party, contact tracing would be a challenge.
"This behavior puts everyone at Franklin High School at risk and we have no choice but to remain in the remote setting for another two weeks," the letter from school officials read.
Students who attended in-person classes last week will have to revert to remote learning, officials said, while students in the STRIVE program will attend in person. High school faculty and staff will also report to the school building.
School officials say they consulted with the local health department in making the decision and know that many high school students and their families will be disappointed and frustrated with it.
"We know that there will be many students and families who share our disappointment and frustration. It doesn’t feel fair that the behavior of a small number has such a detrimental effect on the entire high school community. We know that there are many students who are eager to return and we are similarly eager to see them in our halls and classrooms," Ahern and Hanna said in their letter. "Many, many hours have been spent adjusting schedules, planning lessons, and physically preparing our high school facility for safe in person instruction. Having students attend school in person requires a commitment on everyone’s part to follow the health and safety practices of wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining physical distancing, keeping gathering sizes small, and not taking unnecessary risks."
The school district's preschool will remain in person, while its K-8 schools will continue with a hybrid instructional model, though if anyone who attended the party has younger siblings at these schools, those siblings are urged to stay home over the next two weeks "for the health and safety of all." Remote instruction would be provided in any of these cases.
Mass. High School Parties Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Massachusetts continues to see a surge in coronavirus cases, as Sunday marked the ninth straight day the state's daily COVID case number topped 1,000. There have now been 9,788 confirmed deaths and 155,660 cases, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.