The new calendar year has seen a major uptick in positive Covid-19 cases in the Chelsea schools thanks to the Omicron variant.
Since the December holiday break, there have been 161 positive cases among students, and 167 among staff, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Adam Deleidi. Those numbers account for 35.6 percent of the 451 positive student cases since the schools started tracking the number of September, 2020, and 53 percent of the 314 positive staff cases in that same time.
About 30 percent of the Chelsea schools workforce has tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, the assistant superintendent said.
The good news, Deleidi said, is that the vaccine rates in Chelsea and in the schools are among the highest in the state, and the cases are much milder than previous variants of Covid-19.
At last week’s School Committee meeting, Deleidi updated the committee on the numbers, as well as the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Department of Public Health guidelines for positive cases and close contacts.
“I want to acknowledge the hard work and effort just to be able to be learning in person, and doing it at a high level,” said Deleidi. “First and foremost, our students, who are most impacted by this, and I’m really proud of all the work the students have done to be able to deal with this. Obviously, this is not an optimal situation, but every day, they are masking up, and they are getting vaccinated, and they are doing everything we are asking them to do.”
Deleidi also praised the teachers, nurses, administration, and other staff who have been working hard to keep the district going.
The biggest change in the DESE guidelines is the cutting down of isolation and quarantine times for those who test positive or are close contacts for those who test positive. Those times have been cut in half from 10 to five days, provided those affected no longer present any symptoms.
In addition, those who are fully vaccinated, or who take part in the school system’s test and stay program and test negative can remain in school if they are a close contact.
The assistant superintendent also addressed some questions about the current DESE stance on remote learning.
“DESE will not approve remote learning to count towards our time in learning requirements,” Deleidi said. “We are required to be in school for 180 days with 900 hours of learning for elementary students and 990 for secondary. If we went to remote learning, it would not count towards that time, and we would need to make it up just like a snow day. So we are doing our best to remain in-person.”