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Schools in Natick and Hopkinton move to remote learning due to coronavirus concerns

School officials in Natick and Hopkinton decided to temporarily switch to remote learning due to concerns about the coronavirus.

Natick High School cancelled in-person classes for at least two weeks after school officials learned that some students had attended parties while they were supposed to be under quarantine. In-person classes were also put on hold in Hopkinton after two high school students tested positive for COVID-19 and officials decided to close school buildings for two days in order to conduct “extensive contact tracing."

Officials in Natick said they made the decision to close the high school for at least two weeks because families and students “have not been forthcoming" about who attended the parties.

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“Students who were required to quarantine... attended and/or hosted parties with numerous students over the past two weekends despite orders from the Board of Health to quarantine," school officials wrote in a letter announcing the closure. "Because families and students have not been forthcoming about attendees, and numbers of reported students range from 20-50 students at this time...the Natick Board of Health and the Natick Public Schools are left no choice but to cease live lessons at this time for a two-week quarantine period.”

Natick school officials said athletics, theater, and the robotics club will be put on hold and all other extracurricular activities will take place online during the two-week closure. “Due to the potential exposures described above, we will ask the school committee to require that all extra curricular clubs be held virtually, and that no athletic play or practices occur,” officials wrote.

The earliest live classes would resume at Natick High school would be Oct. 13, but that date is not set in stone, officials wrote.

“Over the two week period, the Board of Health will monitor close contacts and determine if additional infections emerge," officials wrote. "We will also continue to monitor our key regional COVID metrics and our athletics pod COVID dashboard to determine our next steps for NHS and our district. We hope that a return to live learning can occur on 10/13, but all of this data will inform that decision.”

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In Hopkinton, school officials cancelled in-person learning, sports, and extracurriculars for two days this week after two high school students tested positive for COVID-19.

“School is closed for on-campus in-person learning and athletics and extracurriculars for Tuesday, September 29th, and Wednesday, September 30th. Classes are being held remotely,” officials wrote on the Hopkinton Public Schools Facebook page. “PLEASE NOTE: WE ARE CLOSING THE SCHOOLS ONLY FOR EXTENSIVE CONTACT TRACING.”

Hopkinton school officials learned about the first positive case on Friday, according to a press release that was posted to the district’s Facebook page. That student was not in school on Friday and had last attended school on Monday and only went to three classes that day, officials said in the statement.

“Immediately Principal Evan Bishop set the wheels in motion,” the statement said. “Once the classrooms were identified, Mr. Bishop sought out seating plans from the three impacted classrooms, essentially from two teachers and one paraprofessional. The purpose of the faculty members and Mr. Bishop discussing these lists is to identify for the Health Department the names of students who might prove to be ‘close contacts.’”

School officials in Hopkinton said that in one of the three classes, there were only five students. They were all wearing masks and engaged in lab work, which meant they were most likely moving around the room.

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“Because the School could not say who sat to the front, back, left, and right of the COVID-19 positive student, all the students in the room were deemed ‘close contacts,'" officials wrote. "Essentially, the School and the Health Department were erring on the side of caution.”

“The District will continue to notify classroom teachers and paraprofessionals whose students test positive for COVID-19," Hopkinton school officials said in the statement. "That way, if the teachers or the paraprofessionals wish, for peace of mind, to be COVID-19 tested, they certainly may choose to be. The Schools do not have permission to release a student’s name to anyone. Ever. Just as is true with students, if a teacher is deemed a ‘close contact,’ that teacher will hear directly from the Hopkinton Health Department.”



Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.