Officials said pool testing indicated hundreds of students might be infected. But students were allowed to return to classes anyway, a move families questioned.
In a message to parents late Tuesday night, district leaders said 157 out of 362 testing pools were positive.
“This means that there are at least 157 positive individuals, but there could be well over 1,000,” Superintendent Victoria Greer wrote.
By mid-morning Wednesday, only 125 individual test results had come back, officials said. It wasn’t clear how many were positive.
“If we receive positive results after school starts and your student is in attendance at school, your student will be quarantined at school for immediate pickup,” wrote Greer.
Parents took to online groups and Whatsapp lists to decide how to interpret the data and instructions, many opting to keep their kids home Wednesday.
“It doesn’t make sense to send in everyone while awaiting results,” wrote one parent of a student at the King Open Elementary School. “But if they’ve notified most of the positive cases then that’s another story.”
Another parent agreed. “It defeats the whole purpose of the delayed start unless those who tested positive have been notified.”
While the schools struggled to deal with COVID-19, the city on Wednesday announced it was amending its masking order for indoor public spaces to include common areas of residential buildings with at least four units as well as common areas of office and laboratory buildings. City officials also said public meetings would be conducted remotely rather than in person. City-sponsored events and gatherings must also be conducted outdoors, with the exception of youth activities or youth athletic programs. The changes go into effect on Friday.
In Boston, where some 1,000 school staffers were absent Tuesday, including more than 400 teachers, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius headed into the classroom Wednesday to pinch-hit for a sick fourth-grade teacher at the Nathan Hale Elementary School in Roxbury.
“I jumped into gear and said I’d clear my calendar,” Cassellius told reporters outside the school Wednesday morning.
By late morning Wednesday, school officials had not released the number of staff who were out.
Students in neighboring Watertown were also back at school Wednesday after a rocky post-holiday return. The district had welcomed children back Monday, but after reviewing student COVID test results from that day, the district abruptly canceled school Tuesday.
Massachusetts has been wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years. The toll of confirmed deaths from the diseases is nearing 20,000, and there are several hundred more deaths probably caused by the disease.
Massachusetts has a relatively high vaccination rate. But it is seeing skyrocketing case numbers, and hospitalization levels are nearing those at the peak of last year’s surge. Death rates so far have not risen as sharply.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the highly infectious Omicron variant accounted for 94.5 percent of all US COVID-19 cases in the week ending Jan. 1. The formerly predominant Delta variant only accounted for 4.6 percent of cases.
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