Spencer-East Brookfield taking precautions while schools remain open

SPENCER — Local teachers and school district officials have urged parents and students to take precautions as classes will, for now, continue as scheduled.

The Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District issued a statement early Thursday afternoon about its efforts to protect staff and students from the COVID-19 pandemic, followed a few hours later by a joint statement from district officials and the local teachers’ union.

In the joint statement between the school district and the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional Teachers Association, students and their parents were reminded that “the risk remains low here in Spencer and East Brookfield” despite “growing concerns about the presence of coronavirus disease.”

To ease some of those concerns, and to help halt the possible transmission and spread of the illness, district officials cancelled a number of school events — though classes have not yet been cancelled.

“At this time, the Massachusetts Department of Health currently is not recommending closing schools. If a staff member or student in a specific school is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Superintendent and local public health officials will consider, based on the specific facts and circumstances of that case, whether closure of that school is warranted,” read the district’s statement. “The Public Health Department is not recommending school closures at this time because individuals under 18 years of age have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus. Should the Public Health Department determine a school closure is warranted, the duration is likely to be the length of time needed to conduct cleaning protocols and determine readmission criteria.”

As for the school-related functions that have been scrapped in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, district officials lament the negative impact of what they feel has become a necessary course of action.

“This is a difficult decision, as we know many of you have been looking forward to these events. All upcoming school and district related gatherings are canceled until further notice,” read the district’s early afternoon notice. “This includes events where students, staff, parents, and outside community members come together in close proximity to one another.”

The events postponed or completely eliminated include all field trips, school dances, prom, all senior activities, out-of-district professional development, school open houses, all school performances, David Prouty High School’s drama production, and all after school extracurricular activities.

Additional precautions include restrictions on who is permitted in and on school grounds. Visitors will not be permitted on school grounds during the school day, only authorized vendors will be allowed onsite, and all outside rentals of the school district’s facilities have been cancelled until further notice. District officials noted that some exceptions may be made to the facilities prohibition on a case-by-case basis for “groups that serve only SEBRSD students.”

According to the joint statement released by the district and teachers’ union, steps are being taken to “ensure the safety of our students.”

“Each of our school buildings are being thoroughly and consistently disinfected, especially prioritizing high touch areas, such as desktops, handles, railings, and cafeteria tables. We added hand sanitizers to the reception areas of each of our school’s main offices so they are readily accessible to all school visitors,” the statement reads. “We have increased the level and frequency in which our bathrooms are being monitored to ensure that soap and paper towels are adequately stocked.”

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