Fall River is now one of the riskiest communities in the state for community spread of COVID-19, and the public school system has responded by scaling back the number of students who engage in classroom learning at any one time.

As of Dec. 7, the Fall River Public Schools will move to a "modified hybrid model." The modified model will stay in place until at least Jan. 4, when students return from December break, according to a Nov. 25 letter from Superintendent Matthew Malone. Under the modified plan, most students (Cohort B, C, and D) will be working remotely, while only Cohort A students (special ed, English language learners, pre-school, and Durfee CTE students) will report for in-person learning. A return to the original hybrid model is planned for Jan. 4, subject to change.

The move was announced "out of an abundance of caution," Malone wrote. "And while we are not seeing spread within the school system, we are seeing an increase in cases overall in the community across all age groups. Based on reasonable forecasting, we can anticipate case counts will continue to rise following the Thanksgiving holiday."

Malone's letter said the decision was made following discussions with the Board of Health, the Department of Education, school principals, the lead nurse, the reopening task force, and members of the School Committee.

"This decision to move to a modified hybrid model will allow us to reduce our in-person footprint for a defined period of time, a direct response to a significant increase in the city's spread rates," Malone said.

On Friday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released new data showing Fall River with an average daily incidence rate of 92.3 per 100,000, the third-highest in the state after Shirley and Lawrence. The city's positivity rate was 11.11 percent with 1,154 cases reported 14 days prior.

In contrast, New Bedford on Friday showed an incidence rate of 45.6, and Taunton's was 35.4.

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