WEST NEWBURY — Pentucket Regional High School is postponing all sports through Monday while the district investigates a possible COVID-19 outbreak, the school confirmed Wednesday.
The school district has confirmed three cases over the past week, including two at the high school and one at the Dr. John C. Page Elementary School in West Newbury. While there have not been any additional positive tests reported, Pentucket athletic director Dan Thornton said the district is concerned about possible exposure and the schools will be shifting to remote learning for Thursday and Friday while the investigation is underway.
"There's been a cluster of activity over the last few days, which has the health officials curious as to what's going on," said Thornton. "It's not necessarily positive tests but a lot of close contact."
The decision to shut down sports will affect all of the school's fall sports programs and result in the postponement of 12 varsity competitions through Monday. Those include the following:
- Wednesday: boys soccer vs. Newburyport; girls soccer at Newburyport
- Thursday: golf vs. Georgetown; boys and girls cross country vs. North Reading
- Friday: field hockey at Rockport
- Saturday: boys soccer at Rockport; girls soccer vs. Rockport
- Monday: field hockey vs. North Reading; boys soccer vs. North Reading; girls soccer at North Reading; golf at Amesbury
Thornton said he expects the district will have an update by Monday and will proceed accordingly.
"Once the local health officials have time to go over the data, we're hoping there aren't any more cases and everything quiets down," Thornton said. "We're hopeful that if that's the case we'll be able to get back to school on Tuesday."
If no additional cases are reported Pentucket will resume hybrid classes and high school sports on Tuesday, though a longer delay is possible if the investigation turns up more positive cases. Thornton said the district's top priority is the safety of the school community. While he's confident in the district's protocols, this sort of situation is exactly what school officials have feared since the pandemic began.
"We just hope this doesn't spread and doesn't get any worse," Thornton said. "This is what you worry about."
Pentucket in yellow
While the Pentucket School District's recent cases are cause for concern, none of the district's towns have seen a major spike in cases, according to the Mass Department of Public Health's latest weekly COVID-19 report. In the latest data released Wednesday night, Groveland was listed as "yellow" while Merrimac and West Newbury were each unshaded. None of the Cape Ann League's 11 school districts were listed among the highest risk "red" communities, with Lynnfield dropping back down into yellow, which should allow the Pioneers to resume moderate risk fall sports. The full breakdown of CAL districts is as follows:
Yellow: Pentucket (Groveland), Lynnfield, North Reading, Triton (Salisbury)
Green: Amesbury, Newburyport
Unshaded: Georgetown, Hamilton-Wenham, Ipswich, Manchester Essex, Rockport