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High School Parties Force Towns To Focus On Contact Tracing, Remote Learning

BILLERICA (CBS) – Abington Public Schools joined Wilmington High and Marblehead High Monday in switching to full remote learning for at least two weeks. While the Abington Board of Health cited an increase in cases across town, in Marblehead and Wilmington, high school parties were to blame.

Despite rumors of out-of-school gatherings among Billerica Memorial High School students, the district decided to keep its hybrid learning model for the near future.

"We are not anywhere, I don't think, moving toward remote. What we're trying to do is prevent that," said Billerica School Committee Chairman Mark Efstratiou. "I think the cases that we've had, I think our head nurse and other people have done a good job with contact tracing.

In the next town over, Wilmington Police responded to an indoor house party held over the weekend.

"The problem with these parties is they happen whether there's remote schools or in-person schools," said Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University.

He said while the spread of COVID-19 is a concern, keeping students at home won't prevent kids from getting sick.

"That may be more dangerous than if you brought students into the classroom because at least in the classroom, you know they'll be wearing masks," said Dr. Jha. "You know they'll be socially distanced."

Police charged the Wilmington homeowners for hosting an underage party with alcohol after 25-30 teenagers were at an indoor party. The biggest issue, the school said, was the inability to properly quarantine those students or contact trace, because nobody is naming names.

The Billerica School Committee said contact tracing has been accurate in their town, making the risk of a super spread scenario less of a concern.

Either way, Dr. Jha said, "ultimately the responsibility falls on the parents. You cannot have these high-schoolers having these large parties."

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