WINCHESTER — Another Monadnock Region school district has announced it will temporarily transition to remote learning, one of several such decisions this week.
Winchester School will adopt a fully remote schedule starting Monday due to the local rise in COVID-19 cases, Principal Valerie Carey announced in a Facebook post Thursday night. A limited number of students attended classes in person on Friday as part of the district’s hybrid learning plan.
Winchester School Board Chairwoman Lindseigh Picard said Friday she was not aware of any active cases among students or staff at Winchester School, a preschool through grade 8 facility.
High-school students in the town, who attend Keene High School, will continue for now with a combination of in-person and remote learning under a policy adopted by the Keene Board of Education — though School Administrative Unit 29, which includes Keene, announced Friday night that it plans to go fully remote starting Nov. 30.
The Winchester board decided Thursday to suspend the hybrid model — in which students were split into groups that attended classes on-campus and remotely on alternating days — in favor of an entirely remote schedule.
That decision followed the district’s Return to School plan, approved by the board in September, which established that Winchester School would go fully remote if Cheshire County reached a predetermined COVID-19 infection rate.
The county eclipsed that rate — a seven-day rolling average of 10 new cases per 100,000 people — on Tuesday, according to data published by the Brown University School of Public Health that Winchester’s school board uses to make decisions. The Cheshire County rate rose to 11.3 new cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday and was at 10.1 new cases by that metric as of Wednesday.
Board members did not suspend hybrid learning until later in the week because the Tuesday data was not available until Wednesday night, according to Picard.
In a post on Winchester School’s Facebook page Tuesday evening, Carey warned families that Cheshire County’s infection rate was approaching the level that would require fully remote learning and would likely reach it by the end of the week.
Other Monadnock Region school districts also announced this week they were temporarily suspending in-person classes.
Hinsdale schools will be remote until after Thanksgiving after a student at Hinsdale High School tested positive for COVID-19, the district announced Monday. And the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District will also go fully remote for at least three weeks, starting Monday, after multiple infections at its middle school and high school campus.
Following its decision Thursday to transition to remote learning, the Winchester School Board considered a proposal from Carey to wait until the county infection rate remains below a seven-day average of five new cases per 100,000 people for two weeks before returning to its hybrid model.
“If we were back to five [new cases per 100,000 people] and able to maintain there for 14 days, that’s clear that we’re not on an upward trend,” Carey said. “… We don’t want to be oscillating back and forth a whole bunch. That just causes a lot of chaos and uncertainty.”
The board did not formally adopt her plan and agreed to consider a timeline for the district’s eventual return to hybrid learning at its Nov. 19 meeting.
Board members also agreed Thursday to conduct their subsequent meetings via Zoom. The board has met in the Winchester School gymnasium with coronavirus safety protocols in place after meeting virtually from April until June, according to Picard.
“I think if we’re not having students in school that it’s our due diligence to ensure that we’re not inviting people into a group setting either,” she said during the board’s meeting Thursday.