Dear Shrewsbury Families,
After a thorough review of the data related to COVID-19 cases and in consultation with medical experts and public health officials, I have determined that all Shrewsbury Public Schools will resume their in-person hybrid schedules effective Monday, January 11.
While overall case counts in the Shrewsbury community and the state have increased since the school vacation week began, we have not seen a post-holiday surge in the overall number of school district students and staff who have tested positive during this time. The case count has remained at the same level during this period as it has since the beginning of December, with an average of about 30 new cases per week, or slightly more than 4 newly identified cases per day across the entire district.
As I mentioned at Wednesday evening’s School Committee meeting, within these positive cases, we have seen a larger proportion of positive cases at the high school level, where the weekly count last week was 18 and this week is currently 22, compared to an average of 11 in previous weeks. For additional context, for SHS the number of newly identified cases per day has gone from 1.86 per day to 3.67 per day, within a total hybrid student and staff population of about 1,800 at SHS. We will continue to monitor this closely; there is evidence that part of this increase is due to a small group of students socializing during the vacation week. In order to reduce spread, it is crucial that all of our families, and especially our SHS families, make an increased effort to ensure that students are following the prevention strategies that we know work when they are outside of school: masks, distancing, hand washing, and staying home with any symptoms - even mild ones.
As I have communicated previously, the state guidance is for school districts to offer at least a hybrid learning program unless there is evidence of in-school spread of the virus. Out of more than 200 cases in our district, we have seen a total of 3 cases of suspected in-school transmission prior to the vacation, and after testing it was shown that these were isolated to 2 individuals in each case. The medical experts with whom we consult have indicated that the mitigation strategies we are using have proven effective in stopping the transmission of cases in school.
I know that there is some concern about the new strain of the virus. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health advises that while it has not been found in our state to date, it is likely present. However, they also emphasized that the mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of this new variant are the same.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, there is not universal agreement among medical experts and public health officials about the best course of action, and that remains the same at this time. Different school districts and schools in our area have made different choices regarding whether to maintain in-person school or not based upon their individual community contexts, resources, and mitigation strategies. At this time, after continued consultation with medical experts and public health officials, I have concluded that based on our case numbers remaining stable compared to the period prior to the vacation, and given the proven effectiveness of our mitigation strategies to prevent spread, it is appropriate for our schools to resume the in-person hybrid model next week.
Superintendent of Schools