WHS Faces Increasing Number of COVID-19 Cases

Despite rising vaccination numbers, outbreaks continue to affect schools


Photo/ Walpole Nurses

Walpole police GOFI dog makes an appearance at vaccine clinic.

As the school year goes on, students are unable to forget about the ongoing pandemic. The first COVID-19 case of the school year hit Walpole High in October, and up until the week of Nov. 14, there had been an average of around 5 positive cases per week. But the week of Nov. 14-20, there was an outbreak, totaling 23 cases. Although Walpole High has hit an 80% vaccination rate as of Dec. 1, the public school mask mandate for Massachusetts has been set in place until at least early 2022 for ages 5 and up. Nurses at Walpole High believe that COVID-19 cases are only going to get worse this winter. 

“With everyone getting together for the holidays, regardless of vaccination status, we are still seeing more whole entire families come back positive,” Nurse Rachel Jackson said. 

Keeping COVID-19 out of schools is necessary for students to continue on with learning as normally as possible, under the current circumstances. One of the major components that has been able to keep kids in school this year has been Walpole High’s Test-n-Stay program. This program allows students who have been close contacted to stay in class instead of quarantined for the mandatory 14 days. Students who have been close contacted will get tested for COVID-19 each day in the nurses’ office, which takes at most 20 minutes. Test results come back within 16 minutes, and positive cases are caught immediately. Students get tested once a day for seven days in order to rule out any chance of developing COVID-19 after being contact traced. 

Another way proven to keep students in school in person is getting vaccinated. If a student becomes a close contact to someone in their class, whom they sit 3 feet apart from, that student is opted out from the quarantine and the Test-n-Stay if they are fully vaccinated.  Walpole has held multiple vaccination clinics for all different ages, most recently for ages 5-11 as the vaccine was most recently approved for this age group. Vaccine booster clinics are beginning to be held for those above 18 in Walpole as well. 

“If you’re sick, don’t come to school. And even if your test comes back negative, don’t return to school if you’re still sick,” Jackson said. “What we’re seeing now is people are coming back to school after negative tests, but they’re just not getting better, and then four days later, their tests are coming back positive.”

 The most promising way to keep COVID-19 out of schools has been to keep students and faculty wearing masks, as well as attempt to continue raising vaccination rates. Students at WHS are still wearing their masks throughout the school day and social distancing during their classes, as well as during lunch. All indoor winter sports are required to wear masks during games and practices. While the district has done what it can to protect students and faculty, the presence of COVID-19 in public schools has not completely gone away, as things around the world slowly attempt to return to normalcy.