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New mask rules implemented at school amid Omicron concerns and high absence rate

Provincetown IB Schools
Kevin Rutherford
Provincetown public school

Fresh concerns about the Omicron variant and the spike in COVID-19 cases affected local school districts Monday as schools reopened after the holiday break.

In Provincetown, about a third of students and staff were absent, said Superintendent Suzanne Scallion.

“We did have very high rates of absenteeism, and we did find a number of staff and students who were asymptomatic but tested positive,” she said.

Staff took COVID-19 tests over the weekend, and students were tested Monday with the BinaxNOW rapid test, she said.

“We did pick up several cases of students who were positive,” she said. “So they were sent home and will remain quarantined for five days, unless symptoms show up. And in that case, their parents are advised to seek a PCR test.”

The Provincetown schools are now requiring a surgical mask or respirator, such as a KN95. Cloth masks may be worn over the required mask.

The Wareham Public Schools were closed Monday due to staff illness, according to the district’s social media, but not every school had a high absence rate.

Attendance was normal at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, according to Superintendent Roger Forget.

He said two staff members tested positive Monday morning. Staff received tests to self-administer in their cars.

Getting qualified substitutes for vocational shops can be a challenge, and Forget said he was thankful the school didn’t need more.

“We were prepared, as we have been all year, to kind of deal with any needs that may have come up, or cropped up,” he said. “And today, again, knock on wood, we were very fortunate, and we had very little need.”

In Provincetown, an “incredible” secretary managed to rally substitute teachers over the weekend, Scallion said.

Scallion said the biggest danger she sees, as the pandemic goes on and on, is COVID fatigue. She wouldn’t have believed two weeks ago that she’d be spending New Year’s Eve distributing COVID-19 tests to teachers, she said.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.