Students in quarantine have range of options for learning, superintendent says

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By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer

WESTBOROUGH – Superintendent Amber Bock recently tried to quell concerns about the continuity of services for students who need to quarantine due to COVID-19. 

Now that the Westborough Schools are returning to full-time in person learning, Bock told the School Committee April 7 that in grades K-3, a whole class is considered a close contact and shifts to remote learning whenever contact tracers identify a relevant coronavirus case.

That practice will soon be reviewed by the Board of Health.

Schools preserve remote learning options

At all grade levels, a variety of options will take place for students needing unexpected remote learning. Those options include targeted Zoom lessons, updated Google Classroom instruction, livestreams, teacher office hours and extra help sessions, Bock said. 

“There’s a range of ways to interact to sustain learning through the quarantine cycle,” Bock noted. “It’s expected that [quarantining] will be part of our life through the close of the year.”

COVID-19 cases persist in Westborough schools

Reviewing data from March 29 to April 1, Bock said 96 students had been identified as having been in close contact with COVID-19 patients. Of those, 90 students and staff were placed in quarantine.

The high school had the most students in contact with 64, followed by 15 at Armstrong Elementary, 13 at Gibbons Middle School, three at the Mill Pond School and one at Fales Elementary.

Eleven students and one staff member were dismissed with possible symptoms of COVID-19 during that period. Thirteen students had positive test results while no staff members tested positive.

All COVID-19 data, updated on Fridays, can be found on the school department’s website.

Contact tracing continues

Nurses and teachers are continually calling parents to convey contact exposure information. 

In light of that, Bock asked that people remain respectful, understanding that they may feel frightened, frustrated or angry when they receive the news.

School Committee member Lisa Edinberg said a major anxiety these days comes from not knowing how a student will thrive in quarantine when they are put there because of a close contact. She said that she’s been asked why the district isn’t livestreaming all class meetings so that “no opportunities will be missed.”

Bock replied that administrators are working with teachers to make sure all students feel supported.

Students worry about mental health impacts of reopening

Student representative Kyla Kamugu said that students will feel mental health impacts as they return to school after being out for so long. She, likewise, questioned what would be done for the cohort of students who remain in remote learning and “feeling neglected and left out” as they miss the in-person experience.

Bock said that the district’s neediest students are getting the support services they require while teachers and counselors are working with families and students based on individual experiences.

“You can have a lot of people around you and still be struggling,” Bock said. “We know who needs help and will keep sharing resources with them.”

Earlier in the meeting, Bock noted that the district is holding funds back for the purpose of developing “strategic interventions,” and more support to address students’ emotional needs in the next school year. Additional hiring may occur.