Virus, power outages cause concern for Hudson school administrators

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By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer

Hudson – Superintendent Marco Rodrigues said October 9 that he has seen no evidence of COVID-19 transmission within Hudson schools. Yet the virus has still snarled his reopening as five students have tested positive since Oct. 2.

In a frank presentation to the Hudson School Committee, Oct. 13, Rodrigues elaborated on similarly blunt comments he made via video just days earlier, explaining that state of Hudson’s COVID-19 issue and charting a path forward.

“We are taking this very seriously,” he said. “We are looking at this data every day.”

Hudson had been keeping its COVID-19 infection rate low for several weeks through late-July into mid-September. The rate of positive cases then exploded, however, with 30 new infections between Sept. 28 and Oct. 5.

As of Oct. 13, Hudson had 39 residents suffering from COVID-19. The Hudson Public Schools, meanwhile, have five cases, which Rodrigues says he believes came from students getting sick outside in their schools.

“I am deeply frustrated and disappointed,” Rodrigues declared his straight-to-camera statement, Oct. 9, reacting to those numbers.

As he implored the public to abide by social distancing guidelines, Rodrigues told School Committee members, Oct. 13, that his staff had conducted contact tracing for all students who had been in school within 48 hours of their positive test.

That process, he said, involved interviewing students and staff, reviewing classroom and bus seating charts, while also digging through bus and school building security footage.

This, Rodrigues said, is something the district has been long prepared to do.

“The preparations that we did over the summer are paying dividends,” he said.

As the district is, likewise, also prepared to shift to full remote learning should the need arise, though, Rodrigues did not lay out a direct framework of how Hudson would make such a decision.

“There’s no one number [of positive cases that would trigger a shut down,]” he said on the same night that school officials in nearby Marlborough opted to end in person classes in their buildings. “…It’s a matter of circumstance.”

Outside of COVID-19 infections themselves, Rodrigues also updated School Committee members on a unique problem of power outages disrupting remote learning for students studying at home.

Severe weather has caused at least three such outages since school started, sending ripple effects through schools.

“Every time there is a power outage, it may impact students who are learning remotely,” Rodrigues said. “It may also impact our teachers. There are layers.”

He explained that, going forward, attendance may not be taken on certain days where outages hamper internet connectivity in town.

Assignment deadlines may also be adjusted in such circumstances.