Published in the November 17, 2020 edition.


WAKEFIELD — As reported in yesterday’s Daily Item, due to a recent jump in the number of positive COVID-19 cases among students, school administrators have decided that Wakefield Memorial High will go to the all-remote learning model until after the Thanksgiving break.

Since schools returned to a hybrid model of in-person/remote instruction in September, School Superintendent Douglas Lyons has said consistently that a targeted scaling back was likely to happen before any across-the-board move to remote learning.

At last week’s School Committee Meeting, Lyons highlighted the School Department’s approach as circumstances change.

He said that the school administration is in regular contact with the Wakefield Health Department as well as the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

“We are looking at all levels and scenarios that may warrant a schedule change,” he added. “This includes modified schedules and scaling back, if necessary, at all levels.

“We have experience in teaching remotely,” Lyons said, noting that the schools started in a brief remote phase this fall, while welcoming students back in small groups.

“Safety continues to be a fundamental part of all that we do with students, faculty and staff.” Lyons said. “We would not be able to do this without the extraordinary efforts of our faculty, staff, nurses and administrators.”

He said that the focus continues to be on “relationships, student engagement, student well-being and academic progress, with a focus on equity and support for all during this difficult time.”

Lyons praised the school nurses for taking on the added role of assisting the town’s Health Department with contact tracing.

Lyons pointed to the Wakefield COVID-19 Data Dashboard for the most up-to-date information. He also noted that he, Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio and Health Director Ruth Clay have a standing meeting on Fridays that is carried on WCAT where they discuss the number of cases in the schools as well as the latest community-wide data.

In an email message sent out to parents Sunday night, Lyons said the total number of active and recovered cases in the school is 24 students and three staff members. These cases have been reported to the Wakefield Board of Health and will be reported to the Mass Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

“These positive cases did result in students and staff being identified as close contacts and they have all been notified,” Lyons said. “We are also following all Department of Public Health protocols, including collaborating with our local Board of Health to complete contact tracing.”

In announcing the move to remote instruction at the high school, Lyons noted that all athletic practices and games have been cancelled until further notice.

At last week’s School Committee meeting, Lyons said that area school superintendents and athletic directors were planning to meet to discuss what sports may be offered for the winter season.