DOVER, Mass. — Another Massachusetts high school is delaying the start of in-person learning after up to 150 students attended a Friday house party without masks or social distancing, according to an email sent to parents from the superintendent of Dover-Sherborn Public Schools.
Andrew W. Keough, the school superintendent, said in an email to parents Monday morning that Sherborn police responded to the party Friday night where between 100 to 150 young people were “drinking to excess” and not following social distancing and mask guidelines. The partiers ran into the woods when police arrived, but some of the teenagers have been identified.
Students running away would make contact tracing -- one of the cornerstones to keeping COVID-19 numbers low -- nearly impossible, should an infection arise among those at the party.
“In choosing to flout the rules set down by society in the pandemic, they have now put us all at risk,” Keough said, notifying parents that school would now begin remotely for all students.
Students from other communities also attended an “out of control” party, which included underage drinking, the email said, and emergency medical services had to be called in to help.
“I think that’s very stupid behavior,” said Yuan Gao, a Dover-Sherborn parent. “I think all of the parents should tell the kids the situation and make them understand the consequences.”
After two emergency Board of Health meetings in Dover and Sherborn over the weekend, officials have delayed hybrid learning until Sept. 21 if no cases of COVID-19 occur as a result of attendance at the party or from similar gatherings. For those who attended the party, officials said they should attend remotely the week of Sept. 21.
“It’s disappointing,” said Tim Fallon, father of an incoming D-S freshman. “I have mixed feelings about wearing masks and things like that, but I think this situation is warranted given the amount of students.”
Keough said while he recognizes teenagers wanting to get together, these are not ordinary times. He went further, adding that he refuses to believe that no one knew about the party.
“I know with certainty that that is not true,” he wrote to parents. “Rather, what likely happened is that adults chose to turn a blind eye, pretending that what the kids were up to was, “no big deal” and simply a case of kids being kids, or even worse, they set their kids loose without any inkling of what they would be up to that evening.”
Siblings of students who attended the party are being asked to learn remotely this week. The school district is also asking any students who attended the party to get tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to school.
The superintendent noted that “we may need to reassess what is prudent in terms of in-person attendance for other grades,” if a large number of cases connected to the party are identified.
Keough said staff and educators had been working hard to prepare for students to return to classrooms and “in the blink of an eye, it has been derailed.”
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School moved to delay in-person learning after police found 50 to 60 students who were not social distancing or wearing masks at a large party Saturday night.
“Something’s going on because it’s happening in more than one community -- it’s happened in several,” said D-S parent Judy Yung. “So maybe we were just lucky we had such a low case and people were letting their guards down.”
Similarly, in Dedham, some young people attended Bruins watch parties.
In his e-mail to parents, Keough lamented his possible role in not conveying strongly enough the message of public health responsibility. But one parent illustrated the difficulty in policing for pandemic partying among teens.
“Couple of days ago my husband and I went to Natick,” said D-S Parent Yuan Gao. “We saw at like 7 or 8 p.m. there were a lot of kids playing in the parking lot like a party, with no one wearing a face mask. That’s ridiculous.”
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