COVID cases, staff vacancies prompt temporary changes in Jaffrey-Rindge district

Jack Rooney, The Keene Sentinel, N.H.
·3 min read

Apr. 12—JAFFREY — A few COVID-19 cases over the past week, and some staff members reporting vaccine side effects, have led to temporary changes within the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District.

Classes were canceled Monday for 8th-graders at Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School, after several of the roughly 100 staff members who got a COVID-19 shot over the weekend called in sick, Superintendent Reuben Duncan wrote in a post on the district's website.

"This has significantly impacted our middle school's ability to provide instruction today," Duncan wrote Monday morning. "However, we do have enough staff members, including substitute teachers, to hold classes for 2 out of the 3 grade levels at the middle school."

Seventeen staff members districtwide called out sick Monday for a variety of reasons, Duncan added in an email to The Sentinel.

"We have been additionally impacted by having some staff members in quarantine due to being close contacts [of people with COVID-19 3/8 and other staff members who are out for non COVID-19 related reasons," he said.

Everyone reacts differently to the vaccine, and it is not uncommon for people to experience side effects after immunization, which can last several days. These include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and fever. None of the COVID-19 vaccines available or in development in the U.S. can infect people with the respiratory illness, since none of the shots contain the live virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Classes continued Monday for 6th- and 7th-graders, as well as 8th-graders who take classes at Conant High School, which shares a campus with the middle school in downtown Jaffrey. High school classes are being held remotely from Monday through Wednesday, though, after three people within the Conant/Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School community tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

"Due to the combined impact of this past week's COVID-19 circumstances and the district's quarantine practices, staffing capacity to conduct classes and school operations at the high school has reached a 'critical' level on our School Impact matrix," Duncan wrote in an update Saturday.

The district's decision-making matrix takes into account several factors — including COVID-19 transmission rates in Cheshire County, student absenteeism due to illness, and staff capacity to conduct school operations — to determine how classes are conducted.

Aside from a period of remote learning during the winter surge in COVID-19 cases, students in the Jaffrey-Rindge district have attended in-person classes four days a week since last fall. The district is preparing to switch to full in-person classes next week, pursuant to Gov. Chris Sununu's order earlier this month. Families who are not comfortable with their children attending classes in person can still choose to learn fully remotely.

Meanwhile, although Conant High School is beginning the week remotely, about 75 Conant juniors and 12 staff members will still come to school Wednesday for the SAT.

COVID-19 also has impacted the Conant softball team, which paused all activities last Wednesday due to virus exposures that required some people affiliated with the program to quarantine, Duncan wrote in an update that day. The team is scheduled to resume practices and games Friday. No other sports or activities have been affected, Duncan added.

Despite these recent, temporary coronavirus-related changes at Jaffrey-Rindge schools, Duncan said the district still does not have any evidence of transmission within any school buildings.

"We will continue to consult with our nurses and N.H. [Division of Public Health Services] every time we are alerted of a positive case or COVID-19 situation and will follow best practices to ensure the safety of our learners, staff, and the community at large," he said.

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.