Southwick schools could close if county hits 3% COVID positives

Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District Superintendent Jennifer C. Willard (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

SOUTHWICK –Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District Superintendent Jennifer Willard told the school committee Nov. 2 that the schools could go fully remote if positive COVID cases climb above 3% in Hampden County.

Southwick’s positive COVID levels remain low and there have been four positives in the school system since reopening. Several surrounding districts, including Agawam and West Springfield, have temporarily gone back to fully remote because of the percentage of positives in those communities.

Willard said the Memorandum of Understanding between the district and the teacher’s union includes the return to fully remote learning if Hampden County hits the 3% threshold. However, that could change.

“We are going to be working with the teachers’ union to open the MOU,” Willard said. “But it is a process.” Willard said that when the reopening plans and MOU were made in August, they were based on “the best information we had at the time.

“It’s was a collaborative effort,” she said of the reopening plans. “It is a legal document; it is binding.”

The discussion came the same day as an announcement on new COVID orders from Gov. Charlie Baker. During his press conference Monday, Baker announced a curfew of 10 p.m. and emphasized that schools should remain open because the virus is not widely spread in schools.

Willard noted that the district was one of the first to submit plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and has the highest percentage in in-school learning in western Massachusetts.

According to the district website report last week, there have been 48 negative COVID tests at Woodland Elementary School with one positive, 48 negatives at Powder Mill School with zero positives and 38 negative tests and one positive at Southwick Regional School. On Nov. 2 the district informed families that there was another positive case. Willard said Monday night it was not associated with any one school.

School Committee member Pamela Petschke asked if the test reporting was based on parent reporting or the health department.

“Both,” said Willard, adding that each school nurse works with families regarding tests and because of HIPPA the identities of those involved cannot be made public.

Petschke thanked Willard for being as transparent as possible and continuing to put health and safety of staff and students first. “I feel very comfortable having my children in the schools,” she said.

Willard said the credit goes to staff, adding that “it is really a village keeping us together.”

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