Newton Students and Teachers Asked to Stay Home After Returning from Italy

Newton North High School students and teachers who returned from a class trip to Italy on Feb. 29 just completed their first week spent at home instead of in the classroom, as they were asked to stay out of school for two weeks. 

“So right now, the guidance has been that they stay home until Monday, March 16,” said Julie McDonough, spokesperson for Newton Public Schools. “That was given last Monday, earlier this week, with the caveat that it could change. So, there’s been no further guidance plan, so that’s the plan as it stands right now.”

Nineteen students and three chaperones—one current teacher, a retired teacher, and his wife—were in Florence and Rome for the annual month-long exchange program. The students span from grades nine to 11 and have been in touch with their guidance counselors to make a plan for their academics, as well as emotional and social support, McDonough said.

The district is not aware of any student or chaperone exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus, McDonough said.

Superintendent David Fleishman said in a public statement that the district consulted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Newton Health and Human Services department. Deborah Youngblood, commissioner of Newton Health and Human Services, made the final decision to keep students home. 

There are currently 28 reported cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts, according to The Boston Globe. The City of Newton has formed an Emergency Management Committee to respond to the threat of coronavirus.

“Our HHS public health staff have been preparing for emerging infectious diseases for many years,” Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in a statement. “While Covid-19 is new, the communication and infrastructure around public health preparedness and response is not.” 

Governor Charlie Baker called for high schools and colleges to close spring abroad trips and programs on Wednesday, The Boston Globe reported. Newton North High School currently has several trips scheduled for the summer—the district has not issued a statement regarding the status of these programs. An exchange program between Newton North High School and a school in Beijing set to begin in January had already been canceled. 

Boston College announced on Feb. 27 that its Parma study abroad program was canceled due to coronavirus, bringing home 26 students who will continue their abroad coursework online. Study abroad programs in South Korea and the rest of Italy were closed on March 3. The BC Shanghai program was canceled in January, and two students who had already begun studying in Beijing elected to continue their coursework back at BC.

Featured Image Courtesy of Arnold Reinhold/Wikimedia Commons

Colleen Martin
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Colleen is the editor-in-chief of The Heights. She was the metro editor in 2019, and misses her days on the copy couch in 2018. You can follow her on Twitter @cmmartin113.