High school students to learn remotely until Feb. 1

Jan 14, 2021

Dartmouth High schoolers will remain in remote learning until Feb. 1 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to a Jan. 13 announcement from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bonny Gifford.

According to the announcement, Dartmouth public elementary and middle school students will return to hybrid model learning on Jan. 19 as previously planned, with Cohort B returning to school in person on Tuesday and Thursday and Cohort A in person on Wednesday and Friday.

“All decisions are made in consultation with Dartmouth’s Director of Public Health and monitoring of positive Covid cases, staff quarantine issues and ability to manage contact tracing efficiently,” Dr. Gifford wrote. “We will continue to monitor the situation and keep folks informed of any changes as soon as possible.”

The decision to keep high schoolers in remote learning longer than other students comes after the idea was discussed at a Jan. 11 School Committee meeting.

Officials extended a weeklong delay in the return to hybrid learning for a second week following a surge in cases after the winter holiday break that saw 300 cases in town in the week ending Jan. 8.

The high school’s winter sports have also been postponed for a week, due to return on Jan. 19.

“I’m deeply concerned that we’re not through the thick of this yet,” said School Committee Vice Chair Dr. Shannon Jenkins at the meeting. “Our test positivity rate is 13.25% in the town.”

At the meeting Dr. Gifford noted that delaying a return to in-person learning was helpful to district staff and administrators, adding that 25 more cases among students and staff were reported on Jan. 11.

“Luckily they hadn’t been in [school], because we’ve been remote,” she said.

Returning younger students to school was a priority, Dr. Gifford noted, because “Pre-K skills are most the difficult to teach without having them at school.”

Dr. Jenkins stated that high schoolers usually require minimal supervision, so keeping them at home is less of a burden to parents.

“High schoolers can be independent,” she said. “Plus, high school kids are crossing paths far more often.”

In the letter to the Dartmouth School community, Dr. Gifford asked, “Please continue to let the schools know if your child receives a positive Covid diagnosis or has been deemed a close contact.”

She also reminded community members of state travel restrictions requiring a negative Covid test or 14-day quarantine for those returning from out of state.