Taconic high school file photo (copy)

State health officials on Monday will begin testing Taconic High School students and staff to determine if the coronavirus is being spread on campus. Pittsfield Public Schools interim Superintendent Joseph Curtis says the spike in positive COVID 19 cases among students (four since Friday, 12 overall) is due to some students not wearing masks or practicing social distancing off campus.

PITTSFIELD — State health officials will descend on Taconic High School Monday and Tuesday to determine if the coronavirus is being spread on campus.

The Massachusetts Stop the Spread Response Team will administer the full COVID-19 test to consenting students and staff, according to Pittsfield Public Schools Interim Superintendent Joseph Curtis.

Four new student cases since Friday, bringing the total to 12 in two weeks, prompted the call for testing, Curtis told The Eagle Sunday.

The city’s top educator sent out an email Saturday to Taconic parents and guardians asking they fill out an online form allowing their children to receive to the PCR test.

He noted failure to consent will not prevent a student from being kept off campus.

Half the roughly 800 students and 100 staff will be tested Monday, the rest on Tuesday, with all results known by Wednesday. Curtis said the results will hopefully determine if a cluster of cases exists on the Valentine Road campus.

Curtis’ letter sent on Saturday stated school officials have identified a possible cluster at Taconic.

He told an Eagle reporter Sunday the possible cluster is in one classroom involving two students and involves one of the four latest cases.

“One of them is a second student in one class, but through contact tracing, we don’t believe it’s an in-school transmission,” he said in a phone interview.

In all, school officials say 12 students and two staff have tested positive and 25 students and staff are in quarantine. Thanks to fewer COVID-19 cases being reported citywide, Pittsfield Public Schools returned to in-person learning Feb. 25, when winter still had a grip on the Berkshires.

City and school officials, according to Curtis, believe the rise in COVID-19 student cases within the Taconic school community is due protocols being ignored off campus.

“Riding through the city, I see kids playing in parks and very few are wearing masks or practicing social distancing,” he said.

While the problem may be outside the school, Curtis added, “we’re being abundantly cautious” by going through with the testing.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com