As Covid Cases Up-End Local School Plans, NY To Unveil School Virus Dashboard

The Riverhead Central School District was the first to open its doors to students last Thursday, Sept. 3, but two days into the school year at the district’s Aquebogue Elementary School, some classes have already been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, after two students tested positive for the virus over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Also over the weekend, two employees in the Southold Union Free School District notified the school they have tested positive for the virus, and the district reported Monday that the majority of its employees had been instructed by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to quarantine for 14 days,

This announcement, made by Superintendent Anthony Mauro in a letter to parents on the district’s website, upends the district’s reopening plans. Classes had been expected to resume today, Sept. 8, with all students using a hybrid in-person/virtual model for the first week, after which elementary students had been expected to return next week full-time, while high school students would have continued with the hybrid model.

After the district was informed by the health department Monday that most staff would need to quarantine for 14 days from its staff meeting days on Sept. 2 & 3, students will not return to school Sept. 8, but will instead log in to Google Meet on Wednesday for a live update from their building principal and support staff, and will also be instructed to practice logging in to Google Classroom in anticipation of virtual classes.

“On the second and third day of school, students will engage with their teachers and support staff on an abbreviated basis.  The focus will be on transition back to instruction,” according to Dr. Mauro’s letter.

Southold students will commence distance learning full time next Monday, Sept. 14, and are currently slated to return to school on Friday, Sept. 18.

Dr. Mauro reported that the employees who tested positive for the virus told the district they are already feeling better.

“Our objective with this approach is to comfortably acclimate our students and teachers to instruction, both in-person and through distance learning,” he said. “We look to support all members of the Southold Learning Community through the reopening in a safe and supportive manner.  

In Aquebogue, the two students who tested positive for the virus were siblings, according to a letter to parents from Interim Superintendent Christine Tona. The Suffolk County Health Department has instructed the teachers and students in their cohorts to quarantine for 14 days.

The Riverhead Central School District, which includes the K-4 Aquebogue Elementary School, has adopted a hybrid learning model for elementary students this year, with students attending in-person classes with the same cohort two days per week. About 500 students attend the Aquebogue Elementary School.

The district did not make public the grade level or teachers affected to protect their privacy, but did inform the students’ cohorts, and “anyone who may have had even incidental contact with these students” of their potential exposure to the virus, sad Ms. Tona. “We have temporarily closed off all areas of the building that the students used while in school so that we can thoroughly clean and disinfect the spaces. We are also in contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health and will take the steps necessary to protect the health of our students and staff.”

As more local school districts are expected to open this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last Thursday, Sept. 3, that the state is requiring school districts, as of Sept. 8, to require school districts to report the number of known positive cases to the state Department of Health on a daily basis, where the statistics will be made publicly available on an online dashboard beginning Wednesday, Sept. 9. Individual districts must also provide a link to the daily dashboard on their websites.

“Many of the school districts have testing protocols that will be in place as part of their plans, but as I’ve said from the beginning, those plans are only as good as their implementation,” said Mr. Cuomo Sept. 3. “I hope this will give teachers and parents some confidence that the plans are being implemented and if there’s a positive case, they will know and DOH will know and the locals can respond quickly.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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