Positive COVID-19 case closes Monroe-Woodbury High School

Monroe. Meanwhile, the district announced that, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 20, North Main Street Elementary students will learn remotely as long as the school is designated in a yellow zone and COVID testing is required.

| 13 Oct 2020 | 03:51

Monroe-Woodbury High School was closed Wednesday, Oct. 14, with classes being conducted remotely for the remainder of the week after a high school student tested positive for COVID-19.

In a message to school community posted on the district’s web site, Monroe-Woodbury Superintendent of Schools Elsie Rodriguez said Dr. Lisa Sassi, district’s health coordinator, Dr. Lisa Sassi, was working with the Orange County Department of Health to identify those students and staff who may have been exposed.

The school district will notify people who may have had direct exposure to the student and will complete contact tracing within 24 and 48 hours. Anyone who was exposed to the individual will be mandated to quarantine for 14 days from the last exposure date.

All Monroe-Woodbury High School students will be fully remote, following their regular schedules for periods 1-9.

In a separate online message, High School Principal John S. Kaste said the district was planning to have students back in the building on Tuesday, Oct. 20. An update is expected at the end of this week.

There are more than 2,300 students in grades 9 to 12 at the high school.

North Main Elementary to move to remote learning

This is the second time within a week that COVID-19 has affected the school district.

In a message sent out Friday, Oct. 8, Rodriguez told members of the Monroe-Woodbury community that the district had been notified by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office that North Main Elementary School has been placed in a “yellow/precautionary zone” due to its close proximity to a confirmed COVID-19 cluster in Monroe.

Schools within the “yellow zone,” according to the Governor’s new COVID-19 cluster initiative, will be required to meet testing requirements set by the Orange County Department of Health.

North Main Street Elementary is one of three grade 2-5 schools in the district with more than 550 students.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, Rodriguez issued an update to parents of North Main parents and guardians:

“Recent guidance from the New York State Department of Health stipulates that schools open to in-person instruction in a yellow zone are required to test 20 percent of in-person students, teachers and staff for COVID-19,” the superintendent wrote. “Testing must be conducted weekly, starting Friday, Oct. 16, and continue for as long as the school remains in a designated yellow zone.

“After conferring with the Director of Emergency Preparedness for the Orange County Department of Health and carefully considering our options for testing, the school district has decided to pivot North Main students to fully remote learning beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 20,” Rodriguez added. “Students will learn remotely as long as the school is designated in a yellow zone and COVID testing is required.”

“During these uncertain times,” the superintendent said. “I believe the district’s resources and energy should be focused on students’ education, bolstered by meaningful social-emotional support. If the school district chose to proceed with mandatory testing, we would be forced to incur the cost of an outside agency to administer these tests. We are not, and never will be, a medical facility. Our school staff and buildings are simply not equipped to serve in this role.”

Meanwhile, Pine Tree Elementary operated on a fully remote model last week due to one positive COVID case and one presumed case.

COVID-19 cases by school building

On Friday, Oct. 9, the Orange County Health Department confirmed that there were seven positive COVID-19 cases in the following schools: Monroe-Woodbury High School, Monroe-Woodbury Middle School, Pine Tree Elementary (two cases), North Main Elementary (two cases) and Smith Clove Elementary.

“We know these are confusing and unsettling times,” Rodriguez said in her message, “yet we remain committed to doing what is best for our students and families.”

- Bob Quinn

Neuhaus on COVID-19 enforcement: ‘In the governor’s crosshairs’
Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus issued the following statement:
“I had a great conversation with Governor Cuomo on the phone on Wednesday in which he indicated that the local communities in Palm Tree and also in Rockland County and New York City are still not cooperating with public health safety protocols that they should be adhering to.
“As a result, the governor will exercise a new Executive Order that will withhold funding from local communities and school districts who are non-compliant. We discussed Orange County and New York State working together to enforce social distancing and mask wearing in Kiryas Joel and the closure of mass gatherings.
“We also discussed the possibility of more action in the Court’s. The local towns and the school districts that are not adhering to these guidelines and are staying open are in the governor’s crosshairs, not the counties.”