Positive COVID-19 tests at Pioneer, Mahar result in athletic pauses

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School announced it was moving to a fully remote model for two weeks and pausing all fall sports for that period due to a positive COVID-19 test. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2020 5:42:55 PM

Two Franklin County high schools have temporarily suspended athletic events and practices for two weeks after school community members tested positive for COVID-19.

Pioneer Valley Regional School announced Monday that it was pausing in-person instruction and moving to a fully remote model for two weeks after a school community member tested positive for COVID-19. The school has set Nov. 2 as the expected return to a hybrid model.

“During this remote learning time, all after school activities including sports, are canceled and will resume on Nov. 2,” Pioneer Superintendent Jonathan Scagel wrote in a letter to parents. The letter did not specify whether the positive test came from a student or faculty member.

Pioneer Athletic Director Ernest Abramian confirmed Tuesday that all fall sports will be shut down for two weeks, coinciding with the shift to a fully remote learning model. Two field hockey games, two golf matches and two cross country meets were postponed as a result, though Abramian said he had hoped to find suitable dates for those games to be played in early November.

Mahar Regional School Athletic Director Jim Woodward confirmed Tuesday that his school’s field hockey team has shut down all events and practices for two weeks after a member of the team tested positive for COVID-19. That two-week period is retroactive to Oct. 15, and Woodward said he also hoped to reschedule three games (against Pioneer, Franklin Tech, Mohawk Trail) that were postponed as a result.

The other fall sports at Mahar will continue to operate, Woodward said, and in-person learning won’t be impacted as the school had been on a fully remote model at the time of the positive test.

Dr. Elizabeth Zielinski, superintendent of Ralph C. Mahar Regional and Orange and Petersham elementary schools, said the infected student’s family informed the school administration after learning about the positive test result.

The superintendent stressed education in the school districts is currently fully remote, except for some students with special needs.

“The student did not enter the physical building of the school at all,” Zielinski said.

Mahar’s most recent field hockey game was played Oct. 15 in Orange against Greenfield High School.

Zielinski said the student and anyone who came into contact with her on the field Oct. 15 is quarantining for 14 days. She said contact with the student was minimal and the school is following all protocols of the Orange Board of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Greenfield Athletic Director Mike Kuchieski said Tuesday that Woodward reached out to him on Saturday upon learning about the positive test.

“We followed the protocols in regards to contact tracing and felt confident at that time to move forward with the rest of our sports season,” Kuchieski offered.

Greenfield returned to game action on Tuesday with an away game at Turners Falls High School.

Other communities throughout western Mass. have dealt with similar athletic pauses due to COVID-19. Springfield Public Schools temporarily suspended all athletic events and practices last week after a student-athlete tested positive for COVID-19. Mayor Domenic Sarno said the move was taken in consultation with the Department of Public Health as well as Springfield’s Health and Human Services.

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