SOUTHINGTON — The high school is scheduled to be closed for in-person learning again on Wednesday, with district leaders hoping to have students and staff back in the building on Thursday.
District officials received confirmation of a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday and opted to implement a full remote learning plan for the school while school and health officials conducted contact tracing to determine who else may have come into close contact with the individual while they were in the building.
Because of Southington High School's size, around 2,000 students, officials had implemented a hybrid model through which smaller groups of students attended in-person every other day. On days when students were not scheduled to be in the building, they were to be engaged in remote instruction. The majority of students at the school are participating in that hybrid model.
Steve Madancy, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said he and other officials are hopeful the in-person component of the school's hybrid model could resume Thursday.
“We are following up on further tracing to make sure that we covered everything,” Madancy said.
That contact tracing is being conducted with the Plainville-Southington Health District.
The case is the second so far identified in the Southington Public Schools since the start of the school year. On Sept. 11, officials confirmed a positive case at Kennedy Middle School. Because students and staff there are cohorted in smaller groups, with less movement throughout the building, officials did not need to enact a full school closure.
However, the size of Southington High School and the fact there is more movement throughout the building by staff and students meant contact tracing in this scenario would be more complex.
School Superintendent Tim Connellan said contact tracing is easier at the elementary and middle school levels where students are in smaller groups and cross-mingling is less likely to occur. He used Kennedy as an example of how contact tracing there was conducted.
“Because of cohorting at Kennedy, it was much easier to identify staff and students determined to be close contacts. In the high school, the process is much more complex. The number of students is greater, therefore the number of contacts is greater,” he said.
He used the example of a staff member teaching five periods a day and then covering lunch duty.
“I could have 100 students in classes,” Connellan said. “If I have cafeteria duty, that's another 150 students right there.”
District officials declined to say whether the individual who contracted the coronavirus had been a student or staff member. The Record-Journal learned through other sources familiar with the circumstances that the positive case had in fact involved a student.
Connellan, in a letter to SHS families received Tuesday afternoon, stated, “It is possible that remote learning could be extended for additional days depending on the individual circumstances of this situation. We are hopeful that the school will be able to resume in-person hybrid classes on Thursday barring additional information that would preclude the resumption of classes.”
Families will receive a follow-up communication on Wednesday regarding the school's potential reopening, Connellan explained in Tuesday's letter.
Terri Carmody, who chairs the Board of Education, said her granddaughter was among the students at the high school who was notified she was a potential contact.
“She had to be tested yesterday,” Carmody said, noting the result came back negative. “But she still had to go on remote learning until Sept. 30th. In that situation they have no choice,” she said, praising district leaders on their handling of the circumstances.