Covid-19 school quarantines creating obstacles for districts across the region

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The Salamanca City Central School District had to move to remote learning this week and district officials say it’s for a combination of reasons, but mostly because of quarantine absences.

“I think the biggest concern is the number of individuals who are quarantined and not symptomatic,” said Robert Breidenstein, district superintendent at Salamanca. “Normally pre-covid experiences, a few members of our staff with the flu or strep throat wouldn’t be much of a hiccup. We’re dealing with a significant number of staff who are not symptomatic but quarantined, which creates an obstacle for us in the district.”

Breidenstein said of those who were quarantined five are bus drivers. The district is reassessing the situation every day to determine a return to the school buildings.

Salamanca isn’t alone in this struggle; districts across the region have been in similar situations.
The state is allowing counties to adopt a test to stay option that will allow students and staff to show a negative test to stay in school.

“Since September we’ve had 207 students who have been quarantined,” said Mark Laurrie, superintendent of schools in Niagara Falls. “I’m pleased to tell you that of those 207 students none of them had come down with covid. However, in almost every one of those cases the student had to quarantine for 10 days. That is seven days of missed instruction, at a time when every day of instruction counts.”

The Lewiston-Porter School District has been preparing for a Test to Stay situation.

“We would probably be in a position where our nurses could handle a test and stay scenario,” said Paul Casseri district superintendent. “I would advocate for that certainly, I think that would be an appropriate approach.”

But, now that most school-aged kids can get vaccinated is the Test To Stay option still necessary?

“Well, I think after a year and a half of either interrupted or intermittent school attendance it will take a mosaic of efforts to ensure that students who are healthy and well don’t miss school unnecessarily,” said Michael Cornell president of Erie Niagara School Superintendents Association. “For some families the way to avoid that is to have the child vaccinated, and for some families the way to avoid that would be test and stay.”

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