With coronavirus cases continuing to surge regionally and nationwide, St. Lawrence County school districts are adjusting to reported positive cases nearly every day.
Some or all school buildings in four districts, as well as one St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES campus, are now temporarily closed for varying periods.
In a message to families Wednesday, Lori A. Sheffield, principal of Seaway Career & Technical Education Center, said she was notified Wednesday morning of a staff member testing positive for the novel coronavirus. In response, the Norwood center will be closed until after the scheduled Thanksgiving break, and students will learn remotely until the break begins next week.
The staff member case, not yet reflected in the state’s online COVID-19 tracker, follows an off-site Seaway student case reported within the last seven days.
St. Lawrence Elementary School in Brasher Falls Central School District had implemented remote instruction Tuesday and Wednesday — for the second time in the last two weeks — and the district on Wednesday afternoon announced a continuation of the temporary closure through the end of the week.
Brasher Falls Superintendent Robert A. Stewart told families the elementary school is projected to reopen for in-person instruction Monday and Tuesday, prior to the district’s three-day Thanksgiving break starting Wednesday.
In-person instruction for Brasher Falls middle and high school students will continue, as will transportation and in-person instruction for elementary students who attend out-of-district BOCES special education programs.
As of Tuesday, the state’s COVID-19 tracker reports one elementary student and one elementary staff member testing positive in the last week, bringing Brasher Falls Central’s total to seven cases logged since the start of the school year.
In the last week, Canton Central School District has logged one middle school and four elementary school cases, all students studying off site. Superintendent Ronald P. Burke said the district was notified of two of those positive cases Friday, and that no contact was traced back to students or staff at the district’s campus, so the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department did not advise changes to instruction.
Canton Central was temporarily closed late last week and Monday due to a water main leak near the bus loop, but in-person schedules have since resumed.
Massena High School remains closed through Nov. 30, with 13 of the district’s 18 total positive cases this fall identified as high school students. Two of those 13 cases were reported within the last week, with two others reported within the last two weeks, according to the district’s reported COVID-19 data.
Massena students attending Seaway Tech programs in Norwood had been scheduled to resume in-person learning this week, but the temporary Seaway closure has extended the remote learning period for Massena BOCES students until Nov. 30.
Both Gouverneur Central and Potsdam Central school districts are also closed through Nov. 30, after a Gouverneur staff member tested positive late last month and new Potsdam cases were confirmed last week.
Potsdam Central has recorded eight total positives since the start of the school year, with two on-site teachers testing positive in the last seven days.
Since its Oct. 27 closure announcement, Gouverneur Central has logged a total of eight positive cases, one on-site middle school teacher and seven off-site students. The student cases — one elementary, two middle school and four high school — were all reported within the last seven days, according to the state’s tracker.
In a Facebook Live video message to Gouverneur families Tuesday night, Superintendent Lauren F. French said “everything is on course” for a Nov. 30 reopening, though district officials are being mindful of increases in local and regional infection rates and potential state closure orders.
The county Public Health Department reported 19 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the county-wide total to 118 currently active cases, including 18 in the town of Gouverneur, 17 in Massena, 10 in Canton and eight in Potsdam.
Mrs. French cautioned against large Thanksgiving gatherings and described a simultaneously difficult and crucial choice to forgo travel and parties next week.
“It makes me almost feel lonely right now thinking about the fact that we won’t be with our kids, we won’t be with our grandchildren, but the goal is to hopefully be able to see them at Christmas time or next year,” she said.
In recent months, Mrs. French has typically concluded video and written messages with “take care and stay safe.”
“Now,” she said, “I’m saying take care, stay safe and stay masked.”