By: Tanvi Mittal — Editor-in-Chief
On October 19th, the Sharon Public School Community was informed of a positive Covid-19 case in a letter sent out by Acting Superintendent, Dr. Meg Dussault. The letter explained that everyone in contact with the positive individual had been contacted and discussed measures taken to ensure student’s safety.
The following day, a video recording of a meeting between Dr. Dussault and Karen Waitikus, the Town of Sharon public health nurse, was released elaborating on the situation and discussing protocols to keep the community safe. The recording also explained the decision to keep the name of the school where the positive case occurred private to protect the anonymity of the individual.
While the administration did not disclose any information regarding the individual who tested positive, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education confirmed that it was a staff member.
Many in the school community were not taken aback by the positive case. SHS senior Mackenzie Veazey said she “was not that surprised, since cases are popping up everywhere” and understood that “it would come, and it was only a question of when.” She said that this made her even more appreciative of her decision to be remote because “social distancing and masks, while very important, can only do so much.”
Science teacher Mr. James Dixon agrees with Veazey. “Cases are rising in Massachusetts and despite Sharon’s good record so far, we are not an isolated island. What affects the region will affect us. When people get together, even with protocols and care, spread of the virus is possible. I think people forget that there are people who can spread the virus who have no symptoms,” he said.
Some are also worried whether the protocols that have been put in place will be enough. “I think we are taking good precautions given that we have to be in school. However, even with precautions, there will be spread in school. It happens whenever people are together. We can keep the spread down, but the chances it can be kept out of all our schools are pretty slim,” said Dixon.
“Inherent in our plan is that there are some small number of cases that are acceptable risks. That is true of Covid cases in all organizations, not just schools. I’m not sure that Sharon has sufficient protocols in place to reduce spread. For instance, other districts have very clear guidelines about what people should do if they have symptoms but test negative (they could have false negatives),” he added.
Senior Jazmin Jennings agrees with this assessment. “I think that SPS has done a good job with precautions for the virus. There is a mask mandate at the school, social distancing policies, and full remote options.” However, Veazey credited the success in containing the virus at SPS to community members saying that “SPS have done okay in comparison to other schools, but most of the success so far has been through diligent students and faculty and because Sharon already had few cases.”
Veazey and Jennings are not comfortable with requiring teachers to come back to work in person. “The only problem I have is how the teachers were forced to either come into school 4 days a week or take leave of absence pretty much. It doesn’t feel very fair because a lot of them have at-risk family members, are at-risk themselves or are just nervous about it. It would have been better to give options for teachers to be remote also and maybe have a few sections for cohort D students only,” said Jennings
“I don’t think it’s ethical to force teachers to risk their safety for their job,” said Veazey.
Veazey also cites a lack of proper communication from administration. “I’m really displeased with planning and communication. It’s been good recently, but at the beginning of the year, it was really crazy.”
Dixon agrees. “I’m glad that a letter was sent out though it makes everyone wonder. It might be better to identify the school so those at other schools can feel better. I realize it risks getting people at the affected school nervous, but families have the right to know Covid is in their school so they can make decisions, and the administration can take steps to calm those people down.”
Dr. Shawn Kenner turned the spotlight on national and state officials. “I have often wished for clear, detailed and science-based guidance from our national and state leaders and found it lacking. Furthermore, K12 education is inextricably bound up with issues of childcare and the economy, adding even more complexity to the decision making process. At least in Sharon we can rest assured that our school leaders are trying to do their best by everyone,” said Kenner.
Jennings says she appreciated how up front the administration was with the information and how they didn’t try to downplay or hide it. “I think it is very important that people are fully informed in times like these, especially when there is a case of the virus in the community. I hope that this type of information will continue to be provided in the future and that the responses will continue to be appropriate to the specific situations that occur so that they can be handled effectively,” she said.