What to Know
- Two kindergarten classes at Long Island's Hiawatha Elementary School moved fully remote amid a COVID outbreak; officials say 33 positive cases (students, teachers, staff) are confirmed since Nov. 1
- The superintendent says they'll stay remote as the rest of the district continues in-person with heightened precautions; it comes as an NYC elementary school switched all-remote a day ago for similar reasons
- Public health experts nationally are warning of a possible winter COVID resurgence, but it's not likely to linger as long or be as damaging because the current level of protection didn't exist this time last year
Two kindergarten classes at a Long Island elementary school switched fully remote on Monday because of an ongoing COVID outbreak and will remain out of the classroom as in-person learning continues for others with heightened precautions, according to a letter to parents obtained by News 4 Thursday.
It comes a day after a New York City elementary school was forced to move fully remote for 10 days because of a COVID spike among students and teachers there -- and as public health experts warn of a potential surge to hit around Thanksgiving.
The decision to continue in-person learning for all but the two most affected kindergarten classes at Lake Ronkonkoma's Hiawatha Elementary School was made in consultation with the Suffolk County Department of Health, district superintendent Dr. Christopher Pellettieri said in a letter to parents dated Nov. 9.
And it was made as the elementary school continues to battle a COVID-19 outbreak that has seen at least 33 positive affecting students, teachers and staff in the last 10 days alone, Pellettieri confirmed to News 4 Thursday.
The school's website confirms 44 positive cases, 26 of those students, since Sept. 13. According to News 12 Long Island, 70% of those cases came in the last week. It's not clear how many of those cases were linked to the two kindergarten classes.
More on COVID in Schools
Pellettieri explained the situation to parents in his letter earlier this week.
"As I am sure you already know, Hiawatha has been in the midst of a two-week stretch where we have seen many positive cases of COVID-19 for both students and staff," he wrote in part. "Please rest assured we have spoken with the Suffolk County Department of Health on each of these cases."
"Last week, out of an abundance of caution, we worked with the SCDOH to place two kindergarten sections on remote learning due to cases that impacted students and staff. Unfortunately, we continue to have an increase in cases in Hiawatha," the letter continued. "After consultation once again with the SCDOH today, it has been decided that we should continue with in-person schooling at this time."
It's not clear how long the two kindergarten classes are expected to stay remote.
Pellettieri vowed heightened protocol, including ongoing daily deep cleaning and repeated disinfection of high touch areas, supervised mask breaks and more awareness generation around social distancing and hygiene a few times a day.
He opted to reschedule an arts in education program until after Thanksgiving in an effort to limit larger gatherings of students and staff as well.
And based on recent comments from some public health experts about the national climate, that might not be a bad idea. A number recently told NBC News that a new surge of COVID-19 cases is expected to hit the United States around Thanksgiving.
They say it's not likely to linger as long or be as damaging as previous COVID waves because the current level of protection via vaccination didn't exist this time last year. Now kindergarteners, like those in Hiawatha's Elementary School, are eligible, too.
The White House said Wednesday that nearly 1 million U.S. kids in the newly eligible group had gotten vaccinated so far. In New York City, home to the largest public school district in the country, more than 31,000 kids aged 5 to 11 have gotten vaccinated in just the last week, since the CDC issued its recommendations.
That's 4.5% of all kids citywide in that age group, officials say, and the number is expected to climb as the city's week-long in-school vaccine drive continues.
COVID-19 at New York City Public Schools
This map shows all known cases of COVID-19 at New York City public schools. It is updated Sunday through Friday at 5:30 PM.
Building that has been closed
One or more classrooms has been closed
A member of the school community has tested positive but the school community was not exposed