Milton High School and Pierce Middle School have shifted to fully remote education through Thanksgiving as the town is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases with the highest number of new cases since early May.
On Nov. 9, the town jumped past the milestone of 500 confirmed cases since March, when the pandemic began, and has added more than 50 cases since then.
On Nov. 10, the Milton Health Department reported 10 new cases, and on Nov. 15, another 15 cases were added. At least nine of those were students at Milton High.
Milton’s bump is in keeping with an increase in cases statewide that recently prompted Gov. Charlie Baker to call for a state-wide mask/face covering wearing mandate and urge no more than 10 people to gather for family celebrations.
Milton Health Director Caroline Kinsella said that passing the 500 mark was “a wake up call” and the news was particularly troubling given the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday which typically draws families together inside.
She urged residents to keep on being vigilant and to follow state and federal cautions to avoid large gatherings and travel over the holiday.
Residents should also continue to wear masks or face coverings, practice social distancing, wash hands frequently, and stay home when possible, Kinsella said.
“Now’s the time to be more guarded,” she said. “It’s fatiguing for people to keep on hearing that message, but you don’t know how your body will react to the virus.”
Kinsella said that many of the most recent cases have been among people between the ages of 16 and 18, some of whom played on various athletic teams.
She said a single positive case among students in a class or on a team can cause widespread ripples and result in quarantining for a wide circle of contacts.
School Superintendent James Jette said the move to full remote education for Milton High is the second such departure from the hybrid model that the school has been forced to implement since classes started on Sept. 16.
Some families have chosen the hybrid model combination where students learn part of the day in school and learn at home, or remotely, the remaining part of the school day. Other students and their families or guardians have chosen a fully remote learning model.
Jette said that nine students tested positive between Nov. 12 and the morning of Nov. 14.
“As a result of the nine students who tested positive, coupled with close contacts, we had to pivot to remote learning until Nov. 30,” he said.
In a letter to the school community, Milton High Principal Karen Cahill said that students, families, and staff who have been deemed to be close contacts of those infected will be contacted by the Milton Board of Health sometime in the next week since the number of close contacts is quite large,causing a longer turnaround time.
“It is imperative that all of our students and families remain vigilant, monitor themselves for symptoms, wear masks, and practice social distancing in the community,” she wrote.
Cahill said the return to the hybrid model and in-person learning on Nov. 30 was pending on the number of additional cases of COVID-19 in the school community.
Students are set to return the day before the first term ends on Dec. 1.
The state, meanwhile, has seen more than 10,000 deaths from the disease, and for the period of Nov. 10 to 14, each day saw 2,000 to 3,000 new cases — the highest seen since May and June, according to state Department of Public Health data.