WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Out of an abundance of caution, Pine Cobble School has moved to remote instruction for two weeks after one teacher last week tested positive for COVID-19.
The school received word on Saturday that a teacher who went home with a fever had tested positive on Friday for the novel coronavirus, according to Head of School Sue Wells.
That teacher's class had been remote since the instructor went home on Wednesday. The rest of the school, which opened for classes on Sept. 8, began a two-week period of remote instruction on Monday.
Update: On Tuesday, Pine Cobble reported that a second faculty member, in the same grade as the first teacher who tested positive, has tested positive for COVID-19.
"We do have a protocol in place that if there's a positive case in a classroom, that classroom will go remote for two weeks, and if there's a second [positive test], the school will go remote," Wells said on Monday afternoon. "In this case, we decided to go fully remote.
"We've obviously communicated with the health inspector and we communicated with medical advisers who agreed that with the extenuating circumstances of it being the start of the year, they agreed with the whole group going remote."
The entire school community was tested before the start of school through Boston's Broad Institute, the same non-profit conducting tests at Williams College. Wells said all 188 of those tests came back negative.
She said the school likely will need to do another round of asymptomatic tests before a return to in-person instruction at the end of the month.
As for the pupils in the class that was sent home last Wednesday, their families were encouraged to have tests done at Berkshire Medical Center even before the teacher's test result came back. Once the teacher's case was confirmed, "it was required that they get tested," Wells said.
On Monday morning, town Health Inspector Jeff Kennedy told the Board of Health that an administrator from Pine Cobble called him as soon as the positive test result came in.
The board asked Kennedy to review the protocols and procedures at Pine Cobble and the town's other private school, Buxton School.
Buxton, a day school and boarding school, is requiring students to self-isolate and test before arrival on campus. Once on campus, boarders are not allowed to leave campus, and "after the initial two weeks, day students will only be allowed off-campus to return home," according to the school's website.
Buxton plans to conduct as many classes as possible outside, and to use a "hyflex" model with synchronous online and in-person instruction.
According to Pine Cobble's website, it is supplying masks for pupils and staff and requiring that they be worn at all times, except during designated mask breaks. All classrooms are set up with a minimum of 6 feet of social distance, and classes are being maintained as cohorts that will not interact with one another during the school day.
Famlies are required to complete a health survey on their child each day before arrival at the school. Wells said she stands at the driveway of the school each morning to ensure that the survey is completed, and no one — faculty or staff — is allowed on the grounds without that confirmation.
Wells said the first four days of classes went well except for the one class where a teacher displayed symptoms.
She also said the school is well positioned for a transition to remote instruction, which it needed to use in March when the pandemic began.
"We had all the remote learning in the spring," Wells said. "[Teachers] were up to speed. This summer, they've been taking a look at what was learning and what wasn't working — whether it was new apps or getting more adept at Google Suites.
"The teachers have been making more robust what they did in the spring between their own knowledge and working together. Obviously, we're hoping we are here most of the year, but we are ready to be remote."