All Island schools closed for two weeks

Island institutions brace for the impact of widespread pandemic by closing their doors.

AISC approved a plan to explore coronavirus testing of all Island children.

Updated March 18

Martha’s Vineyard schools are closed for two weeks as concerns grow about the spread of novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, according to a letter from Superintendent Matt D’Andrea. 

In the letter, D’Andrea wrote that after extensive consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Department of Public Health, and local boards of health, he has decided that it will be in the best interest of students to cancel school. 

“The education of our students is extremely important, but the health of our students and families takes precedence during this time of uncertainty,” D’Andrea wrote. 

According to the letter, school officials will continue to meet and discuss the possibility of online instruction. As of now, there is no schoolwork requirement for students at home. And if necessary, the letter also states, the school will develop a plan for providing food to families.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services will continue to operate, and staff are available to meet with students for any essential services. “During this time of uncertainty, it is crucial that the Island community band together and support one another,” D’Andrea wrote.

The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School was the first to announce the closure. “Massachusetts is currently in a State of Emergency, as was declared by our Governor Charlie Baker. Out of an abundance of caution and the desire to keep our community healthy and safe, we have decided to close our school for the next two weeks,” a note to parents from director Pete Steedman states. “This includes all extracurricular activities. We hope to return to school on Monday, March 30, 2020, but we will keep you updated.”

The letter was sent in English and Portuguese.

“We understand that this may be a tremendous inconvenience for many of you,” the letter states. “We are being proactive in an effort to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”

The letter promises future communications regarding providing food to families, optional educational enrichment material, rescheduling extracurricular activities, and providing other updated information.

“All educational enrichment material that is being sent home or that is available online is optional,” the letter states. “We are not requiring academic work to be completed. The material is being provided so that our students may continue to practice the skills they have been taught.” 

On Friday, superintendents from across the Bay State were holding a conference call to discuss contingency plans.

Meanwhile, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, which opened one year ago on March 13, is also closing to customers, effective March 14. “While the museum will remain closed to the public, we are committed to supporting our staff, and are developing operational plans that allow for flexibility during this time. All staff members continue to receive pay and benefits. As always, the security of our campus and safety of our collection is a priority for the museum,” a letter from Phil Wallis, executive director, and Stever Aubrey, board chairman, states. “For an organization that prides itself on strengthening connections on this Island, we feel the gravity of this decision, and are committed to finding ways to continue serving the community.”
M.V. Community Services (MVCS) announced it would remain open to the community, with a few exceptions. MVCS is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to provide behavioral health and early education and care services to the Island, according to a release.
MVCS’ emergency services, urgent care, domestic, sexual violence on-call services, and individual counseling remain open. There will be communications to clients regarding new protocols for checking in. Anyone needing services, or anyone unable to come in for services, should call 508-693-7900.
Around-the-clock support for mental health and domestic or sexual violence emergencies remains available by calling the agency’s 24/7 hotlines:
Mental health emergency, 24/7 hotline: 508-693-0032
Domestic or sexual violence 24/7 hotline: 508-696-7233
MVCS’ Early Childhood Programs is making every effort to ensure that the children and families they serve remain safe, the release states. After consulting with the local board of health, they will remain open for families in need of care. Families who are able to care for their children at home are encouraged to do so. Individual services provided through Head Start will also remain open; however, group events have been canceled.
Some changes were announced by MVCS. The Chicken Alley Thrift Shop and MV Family Center are closed to the public and volunteers until further notice. Staff are available by phone and email, the release states.
The Island Wide Youth Collaborative, including the Transportation Access Program (TAP), is open. Contact staff at 508-693-7900, ext. 401, for further information.
“Our leadership team is meeting daily to closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 on our community and most vulnerable populations,” Julie Fay, M.V. Community Services executive director, said in a release. “We remain in close contact with our community partners and local, state, and federal government agencies. Our top priority is always the health and well-being of our clients, volunteers, staff, and community. We recognize that this is a stressful time, and we continue our services to our community in the safest way possible.”