COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Coventry school officials are taking steps to mitigate an increase in COVID-19 cases at the town’s high school.

In a statement posted to the district’s website, Assistant Superintendent Don Cowart said as of Friday, there were 37 positive cases identified among students and staff since the start of the school year, including 21 over the previous two weeks.

As a result, the school has shifted to distance learning on Monday and Tuesday to allow staff to complete contact tracing and notify any close contacts.

Wednesday is a professional development day, Cowart said, so students district-wide will be learning asynchronously from home.

Then, on Thursday, high school students will start being released at 12:30 p.m. each day with a “grab and go” lunch to take home.

“The only sustained time students are unmasked is during lunch,” Cowart said. “Early release temporarily eliminates the opportunity of the virus to spread while students are eating. Once cases significantly decrease, we will revisit the schedule and decide the next course of action.”

The plan was developed in conjunction with the R.I. Department of Health, who school leaders plan to hold a follow-up meeting with sometime this week, according to Cowart.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, testing will be available for all Coventry High School students. Those under the age of 16 will need parental consent to be tested.

Cowart also said the district is working with Coventry EMA to hold another vaccine clinic at the school the week of Oct. 4.

A letter was sent home to families to alert them of the situation and request that they get tested and follow safety guidelines.

To participate in athletics, Cowart said students must be asymptomatic and produce either a vaccination card or recent negative PCR test. He also said spectators will be limited until contact tracing has been completed.

“Coventry Schools understands that the fluidity and the unknown of this situation is extremely challenging for students, parents, faculty, and staff,” Cowart added. “Our circumstances and responses will continue to evolve and change over time as we monitor, adapt and learn how to best keep everyone safe.”