HYANNIS — Barnstable High School dismissed students hours early Friday, at 10:15 am due to a large number of staff absences attributed in part to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Barnstable School Supt. Meg Mayo-Brown said 64 staff members – about 30% of the total number of high school employees – were out, raising concerns about safety and security in the building.
The absences were due to a variety of reasons, including pre-planned personal days and COVID-19 infections or symptoms among employees and their families, Mayo-Brown said.
“It’s sort of this recipe for a variety of reasons,” she said.
School districts across the Cape are reporting scores of staff absences and hundreds of student absences due to COVID-19.
Tracking the virus:COVID-19 cases on Cape Cod keep rising; vaccination efforts continue
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said in its weekly report Thursday that from May 5 to May 11, 380 public school students and 148 staff people in Barnstable County on Cape Cod got COVID-19.
The number of teachers absent Friday meant that Barnstable High School would have had to hold nine study halls per period in the auditorium, Mayo-Brown said.
But the main reason for the early dismissal was the concern there wasn’t enough staff present to make sure transition times, when hundreds of students pour into the hallways between classes and lunch periods, they would proceed safely, Mayo-Brown said.
In the classroom:School counselor fired after seeking remote work fights for job and those with disabilities
It was “more about the overall feeling of safety and security in the building when that many staff are out,” she said.
Mayo-Brown said the school has been able to maintain a positive learning environment with as many as 30 staff people absent.
“I feel their pain,” said Monomoy Regional School Superintendent Scott Carpenter.
In the period from May 5-11, the smaller district of Monomoy had 32 students and 18 staff people come down with COVID-19, according to the state.
Carpenter said Monomoy has not seen those numbers since January. They don’t include staff people who have had to remain home to care for children or other members of their family with COVID-19.
Recently:Two Monomoy students, chaperone’s flight home from London delayed due to COVID
“It has definitely stretched thin,” Carpenter said.
Study hall in the Monomoy Regional High School auditorium in Harwich has taken the place of some classes due to teacher absences, and cafeteria options have been restricted due to lack of lunchroom staff, he said.
Carpenter said he hopes the latest wave of COVID-19 has peaked and will be subsidized in the next week or so.
The high school and Harwich Elementary School have been most impacted, Carpenter said.
“We’re managing. It’s just challenging.”
In Barnstable, school officials will take a wait-and-see approach for next week, Mayo-Brown said.
“It’s hard to predict Monday,” she said.
Barnstable High School is the Cape’s largest secondary school, with 1,762 students in grades 8-12.
Normal dismissal time is 1:55 pm