BPS and Boston public-health officials said tonight Covid-19 exploded so fast at the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain over the last three weeks that they couldn't keep up - and decided this afternoon the best course would be to shut the school for ten days.
But now BPS has to convince the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to grant a waiver from its rule that remote learning doesn't count towards the 180 days of education all public-school students are supposed to get in Massachusetts. In a Zoom meeting tonight, school officials told parents they hope to get word by Wednesday afternoon.
Students were sent home today with Chromebooks - even K1 students - and the school will be open between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow for parents of kids who were out today to pick up the tablets - or any medicines their kids might have left at school or who need a school lunch to go. The school will also be open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Friday and Monday for students or parents to pick up packs of ten meals.
During the meeting, School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and Boston Public Health Commission Medical Director Jennifer Lo said the Curley School has had 46 confirmed Covid-19 cases between Oct. 22 through Nov. 7 - across 21 different classrooms. That's so many cases BPS was having trouble keeping up with contact tracing and testing - the school was up to 500 rapid tests a day - they said, adding the ten days off will help curb the outbreak and let BPS gear up for additional contact tracing and testing.
"It happened so rapidly, it's been challenging for our team to keep up with the capacity that we have," Cassellius said.
Cassellius said she appreciates the difficulties the closing - and the minimum of five days' self-isolation the city recommends - could cause parents. but the closing is "the only way we will really be able to turn the corner." She added, "right now, this was the safest decision we could make for your families and the entire community at the Curley."
That rapid increase in numbers across so many different classrooms is what makes the Curley outbreak different from outbreaks at the Manning and the
Orchard Gardens schools - the numbers at those schools was lower and not spread across the entire school, so the cases could be contained without closing those schools, they said..
Lo urged Curley parents and children to isolate for five days - no birthday parties, no sports practices - then get tested. If the results are negative, they should wait three days and if no symptoms - even a runny nose - then they can resume their normal activities.
Lo said that because of the Curley outbreak, the city is extending hours at the Anna Cole testing site in Jackson Square, starting Friday - 2-7 p.m., except on Sundays, 12-3. She added that once the Curley re-opens, BPHC will be holding a vaccination clinic at the school.