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Every weekday morning WCAI brings you coverage of local issues, news, and stories that matter. Join us for Morning Edition from 6 a.m. to 9a.m., with Kathryn Eident and Brian Morris.

Not If, But When: Monomoy Schools Superintendent Discusses District's First COVID-19 Case

Monomoy Regional School District

A student in the Monomoy Regional High School tested positive for coronavirus late last week, prompting school officials to quarantine dozens of students and staff as a precaution. The district's—and the Cape's—first case of COVID-19 in a student came just days after school reopened for the year. CAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Scott Carpenter, Superintendent of the Monomoy Regional School District, about how things are going.

Eident Good morning, Dr. Carpenter. Thanks for joining us.

Carpenter Good morning.

Eident First, Dr. Carpenter, do you know how the student is doing? Is the student feeling symptoms at this point?

Carpenter From what I've heard from our nurses, the student is OK. There were mild, I would say, like symptoms that this. So, I hope everything continues on that path.

Eident  Of course, keeping that student in our thoughts right now. Of course, you planned for a scenario like this. Talk about how you put your plan into motion when you heard the news that indeed there was a positive case from someone who had been in one of the district school buildings.

Carpenter Good question. You know, the reality is that that you have to go into a pandemic with the concept that it's not if something like this will happen, but when. And, we just wanted to make sure that the school district, we were ready to quickly pivot if need be. And in this case, you know, we received notification, and within the next you know, the next half day, we were able to work with the family, identify any close contacts that the student had had with others, you know, other students both inside and outside of school. And then part of our sort of overreaching plan was to quarantine any classroom that the student would have been in. Maybe a little bit easier than an elementary school where you tend to have students only in one classroom, whereas in the high school you have you're in quarantining the, you know, up to six classrooms at our building.

So, we have six students or six classrooms worth of students and staff that are being quarantined. And I think I want to emphasize, this is even though technically our students don't qualify as close contact when they're in our classroom is a close contact, according to the CDC, is being within six feet for 15 or more minutes. And the reality is that we have put in a plan that has, you know, six foot plus spacing so that we're beyond that range. Anyway, we are wearing masks, washing hands, sanitizing the building, you know, doing what we can to, you know, to minimize any sort of contact. So, you know, out of an abundance of caution, you know, we're just quarantining to make sure that any possibility of seeing spread beyond this in our school isn't going to happen.

Eident You mentioned that six classrooms that were affected because that student was going between those different classes, different parts of the school day. Does having to quarantine that many people have a ripple effect throughout the school and in other operations at the school?

Carpenter It does. But, what we have put in place for high school students is, we have a pretty sophisticated two-way streaming that happens every day in our classrooms. So, to ensure that we have those six-foot-plus spacing between individuals in our classrooms, we have one-third of the high school students on any given day aren't in class, but they're well, they're not in class in the brick and mortar classrooms, they're in class just at home in a live two-way stream where the teacher can ask them questions in real time. They can ask questions of the teacher or other classmates in real time so that, you know, so that there is this back and forth streaming that goes on.

So, what we have had to do during this pivot for a group of students is that their teacher and their class will be meeting fully, remotely with the teacher streaming out to them the lesson with them engaged in the conversations and the back and forth going on. You know, the only challenge here is that the teachers teach more than just one class.

So, there are other classes are meeting in our classrooms for, you know, for this week and next week and we'll have their teacher streaming lives into that classroom, asking questions of the students, you know, presenting lessons and the students asking questions back to their teacher. So, it's a little odd that way. But, we've been able to sort of quickly switch to that, you know, so that there's no lost time.

Eident Does that mean that a staff, another staff member has to be in that classroom, though, with those students, if you have a teacher who is trying to conduct a class, not in the room?

Carpenter Exactly. So, yeah, so we have a substitute that's in there. But the substitute is monitoring the class, not actually teaching the lesson. We've got you know, we've got the experts in there, through the two-way stream and teaching the lesson.

Eident Are there any lessons you learned from having to enact your plan so early on into the school year and deal with a positive COVID-19 case?

Carpenter You know, I think not necessarily lesson.? I think that, you know, the big thing is just how I think it went-- I think it went so seamlessly on our end because of the planning that went in place prior. I think maybe a bigger lesson for all of this, I was talking with people yesterday, as I have in my role then emphasizing that, you know, that that we, as a greater community, have a big role in keeping our schools open. If we wear masks, you know, if we maintain that six-foot distancing, you know, if we wash our hands. But, I also think that we need to also start emphasizing and maybe it'll be on my end to re-emphasize, the need to be mindful, to keep our social bubbles rather confined.

And, I think I do worry that, you know, that the longer this has gone on, that people have maybe lost sight of how important that sort of confining our bigger social bubbles is in terms of making sure that the schools are both in Monomoy and across the Cape and across the country are able to stay open.

Eident Not every school district on the Cape decided to open with a hybrid model or, you know, in-person classes as you have here in the Monomoy district. Do you have any advice for districts that are looking on at what's going on here in Monomoy, as they maybe get ready to welcome students back physically in the coming weeks?

Carpenter I was actually really impressed on how well the in-person went. And, I know that we're having this news story because there's one student who's tested positive and knock on wood, we won't see our next one for for many weeks or many months.

But, the reality is that a number of staff across our buildings have commented on how smoothly this year started. In fact, there are some that were saying, you know, that this may have been the smoothest start to a school year for in-person learning yet. And, I have been amazed at just how well students, staff, teachers are taking this seriously, that, you know, that the kids are maintaining the space in the hallways when they're in their classes and in masks. You know, masks can be effectively worn, you know, kindergartners, preschoolers on up to high school. So, it's it has been really neat to see how well this has gone on. It's a tribute to, you know, to our staff and the expectations that they're studying, but also to know to parental expectations that have been set before the kids even walk through our doors.

Eident And, that is Dr. Scott Carpenter, Superintendent of the Monomoy Regional School District, who joined us this morning to talk about how things are going after news broke that there was indeed one student who tested positive forCOVID-19. Dr. Carpenter, thank you so much; we appreciate your time.

Carpenter Thank you.

This transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.