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Local schools close for three days; state sets rules for dealing with virus

With nationwide reports of COVID-19 cases increasing with every news cycle, School Superintendent Linda Dwight sent an email to the Harvard school community Thursday afternoon announcing that schools would be closed Friday, March 13, and remain so at least through Tuesday, March 17.

We want to contribute to the slowdown of the spread of the virus to help medical providers treat those with symptoms and increase recovery rates,” Dwight wrote. Experts consider slowing the virus’ spread—sometimes called “flattening the curve”—a necessary step to prevent medical facilities from being overwhelmed by a sudden surge of cases.

During the three-day closure, Dwight wrote, the schools would be thoroughly cleaned. Teachers would also use the time to update plans for distance learning in case the closure continues after March 17.

We all play a part in slowing down the spread of this virus,” Dwight wrote in her email to families.

Meanwhile, state Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley and Health Commissioner Monica Bharel held a conference call with superintendents and private school leaders throughout Massachusetts Friday morning. Following that call the commissioners issued a press release with two procedures that all Massachusetts schools are required to follow.

As a first requirement, the commissioners wrote, “All schools must cancel or reschedule large assemblies of 250 people or more for the foreseeable future.” Schools were “strongly urged” to limit smaller gatherings as well. Among the suggested ways to limit contacts that might transmit the disease were cancelling extracurricular activities, holding lunch in classrooms rather than in cafeterias, and staggering recess and dismissal times.

The second requirement was for thorough cleaning. “All schools must implement policies on expanded environmental cleaning, whether or not there has been a known case of COVID-19 in the school,” read the press release. Frequently touched surfaces are to be cleaned daily with one of the disinfectants listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as suitable for use against the coronavirus.

The commissioners’ press release also contained procedures for schools to follow if a student, a staff member, or a family member of either of those groups, is diagnosed with COVID-19. For the full press release, go to https://mailchi.mp/doe.mass.edu/press-release-massachusetts-issues-guidance-on-coronavirus-related-school-closures?e=fbf1e6819a.

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