Positive COVID-19 cases reported at several schools

Superintendents say Chemsford High, Nashoba Valley Tech, Billerica Middle School all have cases

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)

WESTFORD — Individuals at Nashoba Valley Technical High School, Billerica’s Marshall Middle School, and Chelmsford High School have tested positive for COVID-19, according to superintendents, one of whom described the test results as an eventuality the district spent months preparing for.

“It wasn’t a matter of if it happens,” said Chelmsford Superintendent Jay Lang. “It was just when it was going to happen. We actually spent a significant amount of time this spring and summer putting together protocols to keep staff and students safe.”

Neither Lang nor Nashoba Superintendent Denise Pigeon could specify who tested positive, or whether it was students. Lang said two “individuals” at Chelmsford High got positive test results over the weekend, while Pigeon said in a letter that a “school community member” at Nashoba tested positive. Billerica Superintendent Tim Piwowar said in a letter to parents that an individual at Marshall Middle School tested positive as well.

Pigeon said in a letter to parents that the person at Nashoba was not in close contact with anyone else at the school.

“We are doing absolutely everything that we can to make sure that our students and staff are safe,” Pigeon said Tuesday. “We have very strict procedures in place. We have a very strong setup to keep folks safe, and we are following all of the protocols.”

Lang said parents and the school community were notified of the test results in Chelmsford, where a “very strict” protocol calls for everyone who was in class with the positive individuals to switch to 14 days of a remote learning quarantine period.

In a letter to parents, guardians and caregivers, Pigeon said Nashoba officials have also coordinated with the Westford Board of Health to conduct the contact tracing process, based on COVID-19 guidelines set by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

A close contact is defined as being within 6-feet of the positive person for at least 15 minutes while the person was infectious.

“We determined that no students or staff were in close contact with this community member while at school and no action was needed,” Pigeon wrote in the letter. “Our student body and staff have been adhering to the safety protocols including mask wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing.”’

While Pigeon assured members of the district’s School Committee that the situation is under control, she reiterated the importance of staying home if a student or staff member displays any symptoms of the coronavirus.

“We are grateful to our families for their continued efforts to keep students home at the first sign of symptoms. These measures, taken in combination, greatly reduce the risk of additional transmission,” Pigeon said in the letter.

Piwowar referred to his letter to parents when contacted Tuesday night. He said the individual at Marshall Middle School hadn’t been in school since Sept. 18, and was self-isolating until cleared to return to school by the Board of Health.

Piwowar said contract tracing has already been conducted, and that it was determined no one in the school was in close contact with the individual.

He said the individual’s proper actions upon being diagnosed helped, and that all students and staff have been doing well with new safety protocols.

Lang said Chelmsford spent months preparing for positive test results in anticipation that they would come, and said the individuals at the high school were not the first in the system to test positive since school resumed. He said two individuals at the elementary level have previously tested positive, with the same protocols being executed when those results came in.

Lang said students and staff have all been excellent about wearing masks and social distancing, and that he was “very pleased” with the way both the high school and the district have responded to far.

“Districts will be judged based on how they react when it happens,” Lang said. “Because it’s going to happen everywhere.”