WOBURN - Schools Superintendent Dr. Matthew Crowley notified families that the district will pivot back into a hybrid learning model next Monday.
In an email message to parents Thursday afternoon, the superintendent explained that after reviewing COVID-19 case data and other pandemic metrics over the past week, he and other city officials have deemed its safe for staff and parents to return to classrooms on Jan. 11.
During a School Committee meeting on Monday night, the superintendent had already predicted students would be returning to schools on a part-time basis. However, he preconditioned that statement with the caveat that he and public health authorities, still reviewing case metrics, would wait a few more days before officially declaring the reversion back to a hybrid model.
“After careful analysis of current and recent COVID data in the Woburn Public Schools, I am happy to report that the district will return to the hybrid model on Monday, January 11, 2021,” Crowley wrote yesterday.
“As was the case before the winter break, I am committed to communicating any changes to our learning model to families and staff as far in advance as possible. It is my hope that we will remain in the hybrid learning model for the foreseeable future and that any subsequent pivots to remote learning will be targeted to specific classrooms or schools, if necessary,” he continued.
In a decision announced just prior to Christmas vacation, Crowley on Dec. 22 advised the public he was ordering the entire school district into a full remote learning posture on the other side of the winter break.
At the time, he told parents and families that after watching school-related COVID-19 cases tick upwards for a number of weeks, public health officials thought the community might benefit from a temporary suspension of in-person learning between Jan. 4 and Jan. 8 — when those who were exposed to COVID-19 around the Christmas holiday would likely begin to experience symptoms or test positive for the viral infection.
Of concern was that Woburn and many other surrounding communities would see the same type of surge in COVID-19 cases that was witnessed after Thanksgiving break in November. State leaders like Mass. Governor Charles Baker had largely blamed that spike on Thanksgiving Day get-togethers and other private gatherings, and many public health experts worried the post-Christmas COVID-19 surge could be worse.
According to Crowley, the local Board of Health and other officials took several proactive steps to increase COVID-19 surveillance over the past week, including doubling the number of local COVID-19 testing clinics for employees. Normally, the free testing service is offered once a week.
During an interview earlier this week, Mayor Scott Galvin, who also mentioned the extra testing session for school workers, noted that the city’s free COVID-19 testing service for Woburn residents will starting on Saturday be shifted to an indoors setting to prevent weather-related disruptions.
According to the mayor, given the high number of COVID-19 transmissions being recorded in recent weeks, he supported the decision to temporarily revert the school district into a remote or at-home learning setting.
However, based upon the data available to him at the time, Galvin also predicted that students would soon be able to return to classrooms.
“It was really to reset, and we’re going to continue watching the numbers,” said the mayor of the break from the hybrid model. “[Our latest data] has been pretty consistent. It’s the same across the country and the state.”
“It’s very contagious,” Galvin later said of the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19. “You really have to avoid late crowds, wear a mask, and physically distance [if you want to avoid catching it].”
According to both the mayor and the superintendent, with Cohort groups A and C returning to the classroom on Monday, they will continue to carefully monitor incoming cases to safeguard the public health
“Over the winter break, up until this moment, and each and every day beyond this, I have and will continue to analyze COVID cases and close contacts in our school community. Access to this data affords me the ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and staff, in coordination with Mayor Galvin, the Woburn Board of Health and the Woburn School Committee,” said Crowley yesterday.