We have been keeping a close eye on the drastic rise in COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Western Mass News is your School Authority.

We have been keeping a close eye on the drastic rise in COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Now local school districts are making changes to their COVID-19 protocols just weeks into the new school year.

The Northampton School District is expected to vote Thursday night on whether or not to require teachers and staff to be fully vaccinated, and in Holyoke school officials have ramped up their safety measures in the classroom.

We spoke to one parent within that district, and they tell us they are concerned about the rise in positive COVID-19 cases.

Paula Rosario’s daughter is a first-grade student in the Holyoke Public School District.

She's concerned that within the first 12 days of in-person learning, the district has seen positive COVID-19 cases double.

Right now, I’m very worried, because at home I also have my parents that have cancer, so yeah, we’re basically panicking a little,” Rosario said.

Western Mass News is digging deeper into the numbers. We reported last Wednesday a total of 28 positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff. As of Thursday of this week, that number has jumped to 63; this includes five staff members and 58 students.

Putting this into perspective, Holyoke school officials tell us all together there are over 6,000 students and staff. This means one percent of the population has contracted the virus.

“A lot of times it is due to lack of compliance with protocols, we understand that teachers and staff members are trying their best, but this is really a time to double down on our safety,” Holyoke Public Schools Chief of Strategy and Turnaround Erin Linville said.

Linville said seven of the 63 positive cases are suspected to be a result of transmission within the classroom.

Linville said school officials determine the difference between community and school exposure through contact tracing.

“We keep seating charts for every classroom, so what’s really important is if we find that a child has COVID or staff member has COVID, from being out in the community and they end up testing positive,” Linville said.

Because of the recent uptick in cases, the district is now ramping up its safety measures.

This includes virtual open houses, virtual meetings among staff, and discontinuing a classroom classic, reading around the rug.

“Because it’s really difficult to maintain that three feet of distance in those settings,” Linville explained.

Linville said the message to the HPS community is very clear, COVID-19 compliance is of the highest importance to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“We all know your mask has to cover your nose and your mouth, and it’s our responsibility as adults to make sure we are reminding kids regularly whenever we see non-compliant behavior,” Linville said.

Linville said they are keeping families updated on COVID issues via email, social media, and during school committee meetings.

As for Northampton, a vote to mandate teachers and staff to get the COVID vaccine would make it one of the first public school systems in the state to do so.

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