COVID surge over holidays forces local schools to continue protocols

As students returned to school after the winter break, a spike in COVID-19 cases caused widespread absences fueled by the Omicron variant.

On Monday, Suffolk County saw a 24.1% positivity rate, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Those numbers come just a day before Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announces the state will end contact tracing for the virus. She said it was “almost impossible” to keep track of case numbers with the Omicron surge and the focus should instead be on vaccinations and testing.

“We have 12,000 new cases a day. It’s almost impossible to do contact tracing like we’ve done in the past,” Hochul said at a news conference in Manhattan on Jan. 11.

The county has yet to announce whether it will also halt local contact tracing.

But to continue to keep children safe in their schools, some North Shore districts have implemented new protocols, in addition to mask-wearing, social distancing and virtual learning.

Elwood

In a statement from the Elwood School District, Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said that at the height of the COVID outbreak, which immediately followed the holidays, the district had approximately 200 students in isolation or quarantine.

“Any student who is directed into isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 has the option of working remotely at Elwood, K-12,” he said.

Northport-East Northport

Residents of the Northport-East Northport community received a letter from Superintendent Robert Banzer last week providing an update on some changes that have taken place due to the surge.

At the time of the notice, which was sent on January 7, quarantine and isolation expectations for students and staff were reduced for positive cases from 10 days to five days as long as the conditions of the guidelines are met. . These changes to quarantine protocols are also described and are based on vaccination/booster status.

For remote learning during quarantine, Banzer expressed sympathy noting, “We understand that remote learning is not ideal,” but some changes have been made for students to learn at home. .

High school and middle school students have been updated on the district’s virtual quarantine support schedule, which provides periodic access to a subject teacher throughout the day. Elementary students have been given increased access to their quarantine support teacher.

“A key difference between supporting virtual quarantine and live streaming a classroom (aka: turning on the camera in the classroom) is the ability for students to interact with a teacher and ask questions, which is usually not possible with a traditional live-streaming approach,” he said. wrote. “It creates conditions that allow students to be given full attention; the vast majority who are present in class and those who are online seeking virtual assistance from the subject teacher.

The district, along with others on Long Island, received testing kits for students and staff to perform at home, as well as community testing that will take place Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bellerose site. Ave.

Smithtown

Smithtown schools are prioritizing in-person instruction, according to Superintendent Mark Secaur.

“We strongly believe it’s superior to distance learning,” he said. “That said, we are allowing remote learning via livestreaming for students who are unable to attend due to COVID-related quarantine and isolation requirements.”

He said he believed the district provided a safe in-person learning environment, so he did not allow students to “sign up” to a remote environment unless they were forced to miss the school due to a period of COVID quarantine or isolation.

three towns

In a letter sent to residents, the Three Village School District continued to keep students 3 feet and 6 feet apart when in the cafeteria. Plastic barriers can be installed at the request of the family, but none are distributed to everyone at this time.

The notice stated for high school students: “Due to an increased number of COVID-19 cases after the winter break, the following procedures will be implemented from Thursday, January 6 to Friday, January 21 at high school, and until Friday January 28 in the colleges.

These include live streaming into classrooms if a student or family is isolated. The Three Village live broadcast is all day long and not for individual instruction periods. It is not interactive and will continue beyond the dates listed for quarantined students only.

Comsewogue

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said some parents are worried about sending their kids back to school after winter break, so the district has implemented a 10-day virtual option for families, ending this week. Students still have the option to livestream to their classes.

“Virtual learning is good for now, but it’s not the best way to learn,” she said, noting that in-person learning is important for social and emotional growth.

In conjunction with the virtual option, the district continues to follow the state’s mask mandate and 6-foot distancing.

“When things calm down, we’ve written a letter to send to the governor asking that students sit at their desks without masks,” Quinn said. “The spread is not happening in schools.”

But until the Omicron variant ceases and things return to some sort of normality, Comsewogue will continue to provide testing for students and staff.

Quinn added that the day before the start of the school year, more than 2,000 tests had been distributed.

Middle Country

Middle Country Central School District Superintendent Roberta Gerold is confident things are looking up. She said on Tuesday, January 11, that attendance at her schools was starting to improve.

“I think we’re starting to plateau,” she said. “After reporting 10 days away after family breakups, today it’s finally slowing down.”

She added that the district tests staff once a week, while students can get tested every Monday if the parent requests it.

“We want to make sure that if they have symptoms, it’s not COVID,” she said.

Middle Country also adhered to its mask mandates and physical distancing.

“Our positivity rate is consistently lower than the county and state rate,” she added. “We are still as cautious as before.”

Students have the option to livestream to their classes if they are away and are offered virtual instruction during quarantine.

“Our staff are amazing,” said Gerold. “They are working double, triple duty to support the staff who are not there, and they are also affected at home, but are always there for our students tirelessly.”

Gerold praised the district as a whole, “We just want the students to be safe.”

Shoreham-Wading River

Superintendent Gerard Poole said “thankfully” things are better this week.

“We’re learning entirely in person, but if someone’s away they can get a live stream,” he said.

For grades K-5, students are spaced 6 feet apart and the same is true for high school students with activities like choir, orchestra, and cafeteria.

“Parents in the community continue to collaborate to help students,” he said. “And our nurses continue to be heroes… the flexibility of the staff is incredible. We are very grateful to them.