North Country schools begin confirming student COVID cases


Starbuck Elementary School, Watertown, NY (WWTI/ Isabella Colello)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — With only one week into the school year, North Country educators are already confirming student COVID cases.

Like last year, schools in New York will be required to report cases to the New York state Department of Health as many are returning to full in-person instruction. The DOH is not requiring school district to communicate positive COVID-19 cases to their respective communities.

However some schools across the North Country are enacting their own protocols for reporting cases to the community. This includes weekly press releases or on a case-by-case basis.

In a statement to families during the first week of school, Watertown City School District Superintendent Patricia LaBarr confirmed that the District will send weekly COVID updates every Friday. LaBarr said that these updates will work to “keep the community informed,” but also not “inundate inboxes.”

Included in this update, Superintendent LaBarr confirmed that seven students tested positive for the coronavirus in the District within the first week of school. Two of these cases were at Watertown High School, two were at the H.T. Wiley Intermediate School, one was at North Elementary School, one at Ohio Elementary School and one at Knickerbocker Elementary School. The District is currently performing the contact tracing process to identify any close contacts.

The South Jefferson Central School District is also continuing to send COVID updates on a case-by-case basis. The District confirmed that a student from Wilson Elementary tested positive for the virus on September 8.

According the District, the student attended school on the previous day and was asymptomatic. Some students and one staff were considered close contacts and were required to quarantine. The District is also monitoring students who ride one of the busses.

In St. Lawrence County, the Gouverneur Central School District is sending out COVID updates to the community. On September 10, the District confirmed a COVID cases in its community. The press release did not identify the individual as either a student or staff.

However, the case did impact student at Gouverneur High School as some have been directed to self-quarantine. These students will temporarily utilize remote instruction.

Similarly, the Edwards-Knox Central School District reported a student COVID case on September 9. According to the District, this case was an isolated exposure and school is set to resume as normal.

Those who were in direct contact with the positive student were contacted by the District. The St. Lawrence County Department of Health also reached out to these contacts and advised on the need to quarantine and to arrange testing of those exposed.

COVID reporting guidance was issued by New York State as a part of the 2021-2022 school year recommendations. The guidance also requires the use of facemasks, social distancing both in the classroom and on buses. It also requires unvaccinated faculty or staff to get weekly COVID testing.

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