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Dover-Sherborn Regional High School to start remotely after large weekend party ‘put us all at risk’

A COVID-19 testing site.
A COVID-19 testing site.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Dover-Sherborn Regional High School will shift to full remote at least for now in the wake of a weekend party in Sherborn attended by as many as 150 high school age teenagers who had access to alcohol and failed to properly abide by COVID-19 social distancing rules, the superintendent wrote Monday.

"We have no way of knowing the names of all of the people who attended the party or whether they might have been exposed to the Coronavirus,'' Dover-Sherborn Regional Schools Superintendent Andrew W. Keough wrote to parents Monday. "These are not ordinary times. In choosing to flout the rules set down by society in the pandemic, they have now put us all at risk.”

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According to Keough, the party was held Friday night in Sherborn and drew high-school age teenagers from both public and private schools in the region and when police arrived, the attendees scattered, although some were later identified by authorities.

“The party was out of control, there was a great deal of under aged drinking, and emergency personnel had to be called in to provide support,'' he wrote. “I understand that these young people were most likely just finding a way to be together… as far away from adults as possible. We all know this is not a new thing for teenagers. However, these are not ordinary times.”

Sherborn police referred questions to the town Board of Health on Monday.

Daryl Beardsley, chair of the board, said via email that the panel “has not yet issued any fines or violations.”

Keough said the Friday party was not the first time COVID-19 safety rules were ignored. But he said the fact that the huge social event took place on the verge of the reopening of schools and after months of public messaging on the need to keep oneself safe - so others are kept safe - was personally disheartening.

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"What I can say is I am incredibly disappointed that we as a community cannot control ourselves or our kids enough to keep our communities safe. This really surprises me,'' he wrote "What likely happened is that adults chose to turn a blind eye, pretending that what the kids were up to was, ‘no big deal’ and simply a case of kids being kids, or even worse, they set their kids loose without any inkling of what they would be up to that evening.''

But, he said, he cannot change the facts. And he endorsed the recommendations issued jointly on Sunday by the Boards of Health in the two towns. They are:

— In-schools classes now will start Sept. 21 instead of this Tuesday. "If there are no cases identified from either the party identified or in any other similar gatherings that may have occurred in the same time frame - then hybrid high school may begin on 9/21 as had previously been planned for 9/15,'' he wrote.

-- Athletic tryouts and practices are postponed until next Monday.

— Anyone confirmed to be at the party must be tested for COVID-19 before returning to school. Testing should start on Tuesday or Wednesday given the incubation period for the disease.

— Siblings of confirmed attendees also should attend school remotely - this is a recommendation, not a requirement. "Given that we believe that many attendees were not able to be identified - this is essentially voluntary but strongly encouraged,'' the boards of health said in their joint statement.

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— If an outbreak occurs among high school students and their families “we may need to reassess what is prudent in terms of in person attendance for other grades,'' the board cautioned.

"In my 34 years as an educator, I have never witnessed an effort such as the one undertaken this past spring and summer to reopen our schools. Although exhausting, it has served as an incredible source of pride for me,'' Keough wrote. “And yet, in the blink of an eye, it has been derailed. To those who have worked so hard to make our reopening happen, I want to say I am sorry.”

Keough wrote that he felt some responsibility because he now feels as though he did not emphasize the need to comply with social distancing guidelines as strenuously as should have.

“As the leader of our schools, I feel some ownership for not conveying the importance to our school community of responsible behavior,'' he wrote. . To those whose lives have now been needlessly disrupted, I want to apologize to you, too. Finally, to those who are at high risk of illness or live with the fear of becoming sick, I want to assure you that we will try harder. As a community, we must.”

Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.




John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.