Coronavirus cases on the rise in Wareham Public Schools

Nov 24, 2020

Eight Wareham Public School students — at least one enrolled at each of the district’s four schools — have tested positive for covid-19 as of the evening of Nov. 23, according to the district’s covid-19 dashboard and Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood.

“We weren’t really having a lot of activity,” Shaver-Hood said of the number of cases. “And then, in the last week, we’ve really started jumping.”

Additionally, a total of 24 students and four employees are currently quarantined.

The dashboard numbers include students who have tested positive or who are quarantined whether they are participating in hybrid schooling with some in-person classes or whether they are fully remote students, Shaver-Hood said. 

The school district does not report covid data separated by hybrid or fully-remote enrollment. For this reason, it is unclear whether the eight students who have tested positive are students in the hybrid or fully-remote programs at each of the district’s schools.

But Shaver-Hood said all of the quarantined students and staff members are due to non-school exposures. 

“What we’re seeing is really from the outside,” she said. 

Shaver-Hood said there has not been any in-school spread of the virus thus far. There were some in-school exposures early on, but not any recently, she said. 

Some people in the community are not taking the proper precautions or are violating quarantine procedures, and those individuals are part of the problem, Shaver-Hood said.

“That’s extremely upsetting to us because we are working extremely hard to keep people in school and to keep our schools open,” she said. “And when we have people staying all night in other people’s houses or going places, it’s really upsetting to us.”

Shaver-Hood emphasized the importance of practicing good social distancing and making sacrifices over the next month.

“We have just got to keep people safe,” she said.

The district hopes to keep schools open and maintain the hybrid option — or potentially even bring students and staff back for a longer school day, Shaver-Hood said. But the outlook isn’t great based on the current data.

“It’s quite a bit difficult when we see the numbers going up,” she said. “And coming up with the holidays, I certainly hope people follow the guidelines. It’s difficult; I understand that. But it’s making a sacrifice for the good of everyone.”

Shaver-Hood explained that when the school district learns of a positive case within the schools, the Board of Health is alerted first assuming they have not already been made aware of the case. 

From there, the Board of Health provides guidance to the district on when staff, students and students’ families need to be alerted about potential exposures. 

Public health nurses handle Wareham’s contact tracing — the process of determining the people who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for covid-19 and alerting them to their exposure — and provide guidance for those who have been exposed.

Shaver-Hood said there was no definite, predetermined threshold that would force the district to shift Wareham schools to fully remote instruction. But she said the district was watching schools for concerning patterns and keeping an eye on staffing levels.

The dashboard also shows one staff member having tested positive as of Nov. 23, but Shaver-Hood clarified that the number is a mistake. That staff member is no longer positive for covid-19, she said, meaning there are no staff members positive for covid-19 at this time.