NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Niagara Falls schools superintendent Mark Laurrie said Monday about 61 people may have come into contact with a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Ultimately, that’s why he decided to close the school, and have its students learn completely remotely.
“The fact that it was a wider breadth of potential contacts, even though everyone was masked, and the fact that I’m really comfortable with where we are in terms of remote learning, it made the decision to err on the side of caution a lot easier,” Laurrie said.
“That may not be the decision in the next case or another district, but it was the best decision for our district based on the circumstances we had,” he added.
Laurrie found out Sunday afternoon the staff member at Maple Avenue Elementary School had tested positive. One hundred students there had already been learning fully remotely. There are 126 students in the “Blue group”, who report to school on Mondays and Tuesdays, and 120 students in the “Gold group”, who report on Thursdays and Fridays. The school also has 39 staff members. Laurrie is concerned some of those who were in school on Blue days may have come into contact with the infected staff member.
The Niagara County Department of Health is responsible for the contact tracing in this case. Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton has already issued 14-day quarantine orders to those potentially exposed.
“We see that quarantining has worked,” Stapleton said. “We had a couple of people last week, they were quarantined because they were in contact with a positive (person). They turned positive during their quarantine.”
A testing clinic has been organized by the school district and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. It will take place in the Maple Avenue school’s parking lot on Tuesday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
Students who need to pick up materials from the school will be able to do so on Tuesday as well. October 8th is the earliest students will be allowed back into the classroom for in-person instruction, Laurrie said.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.