Covid-positive results continue to shift schedules for area districts

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The New Hartford school district is converting to all-remote learning through Dec. 4, while the Adirondack school district is emphasizing plans to maintain a current hybrid schedule that includes in-person instruction pending some possible changes in conditions.

Those contrasting announcements were among updates Thursday by area school districts in relation to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, also including Oriskany as well as Rome where Strough Middle School was changed to all-remote instruction for today only.

In addition, the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS) school district announced this morning it will move to remote learning on Monday and Tuesday next week.

• Adirondack — The district at this time “will maintain our current hybrid model,” according to a letter to the Adirondack community by Superintendent Edward Niznik. He previously had said in a letter Monday the district would need to make a decision about moving from hybrid to full remote learning during the holiday season, amid concerns about COVID-19 spikes in that season.

“We will continue to work with our community agencies and closely monitor the potential spread of the virus within our schools and the community in the coming days and weeks,” Niznik said Thursday. “Schools have done an excellent job with all of the safety protocols that have been in place since the opening of schools in September.”

However, while “we will continue to strive to safely have in-person learning,” Niznik added, “if the infection rate continues to increase in the county, if a number of students or staff needs to quarantine, if we are directed by county or state officials or if we are designated as a yellow zone, we will need to go full remote.”

Niznik further said “as mentioned in previous notices, please have plans in place and be prepared in the event we move to full remote.”

• New Hartford — The district “will be fully remote from...Nov. 20...through Dec. 4,” said Superintendent Robert Nole in a letter to the school community. “There will be no in-person classes on campus, including special education programs. In addition, all district-wide in-person extracurricular activities continued to be canceled.”

Nole, who had previously announced the high school would be fully remote this week due to COVID-19 cases, also said in his latest letter the district on Thursday “learned that four individuals are positive for COVID-19.” The county Department of Health (DOH) “is currently completing their contact tracing efforts,” he added.

Expressing concerns about local COVID-19 trends and the safety of district campuses, Nole observed “the rate of infection in our county has tripled since the month began. This increased rate presents new challenges to a timely completion of contact tracing efforts by the DOH. The overall situation has greatly affected our capacity to safely educate our students, especially when it comes to securing adequate numbers of substitute teachers, cleaners, school safety officers, monitors, and bus drivers.”

The district’s “focus will remain on fully remote instruction through Dec. 4 unless other plans are prompted by local or state officials,” Nole added.

• Oriskany — The district Wednesday night learned a student who is connected to the district at the Jr./Sr. High School has tested positive for COVID-19, said Superintendent Timothy Gaffney in a letter to parents and guardians.

“Please know, this individual has not been in contact with any other students or any faculty and staff members as we have been on remote instruction during the time of exposure,” Gaffney said. “The Department of Health has been notified and no further action from the school district is required at this time.”

Gaffney previously said Wednesday the Jr./Sr. High School would continue with remote instruction through Tuesday next week; it had shifted to remote instruction at the start of this week due to a prior COVID-19 case, and Wednesday was a district-planned virtual instruction day.

• Rome — The district learned of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases for an individual of the Strough community last in the building on Thursday and for an individual of the Early Childhood Program at the former Clough school last in that building on Monday, said Superintendent Peter C. Blake in a letter to families and staff.

Based on contact tracing, there is no need at this time to make adjustments to the Early Childhood Program and school was to continue today as planned, said Blake. Strough, meanwhile, was shifting to remote learning for today “in an effort to give time for the contact tracing process to be completed, and out of an abundance of caution,” he said. Its hybrid learning including in-person classes will resume Monday “barring any further developments with this situation,” he added.

Blake previously said Wednesday that Rome Free Academy would shift to all-remote learning from Thursday this week through Tuesday next week due to staff shortages caused by quarantines.

• VVS — In outlining the district’s shift to remote learning for Monday and Tuesday next week, Superintendent Martha Group said in a message this morning “We remain committed to continuing our hybrid learning model if at all possible. We will monitor the situation throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, and will make a decision regarding resuming our hybrid learning model based on the information available.”

The district was notified Thursday that a second bus driver tested positive for COVID-19, said Group.

“As a result of this case, 33 students will need to quarantine and one student will need to self-monitor. This brings the two-day total to 57 students under quarantine and 3 students who are directed to self-monitor,” Group commented.

The district has been “monitoring the number of regional cases” plus “quarantine numbers for positive cases and close contacts and the impact on faculty and staff attendance and the availability of substitutes,” Group added. “At this point, each of these areas has reached or exceeded our capacity for in-person learning.”

A decision on whether to resume hybrid learning will be made by early Sunday, Nov. 29, “to allow time for you to make the appropriate arrangements for your children,” said Group.

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