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COVID in local schools: some districts struggle, others doing okay

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 3:44 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Many north country schools are finishing up their second week of classes. So, what are COVID-19 transmission rates like since the return of students?

According to St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Tom Burns, all districts are struggling with COVID.

He says the virus has run rampant through sports teams and is creating problems with bus drivers, causing some kids to be late.

Some school buildings are close to shutting down, he added.

Burns blames the low vaccination rate in the county. Officials say 52 percent of the population there is fully vaccinated.

It’s a much different story in the Watertown City School District, the biggest school district in the area. It has 4,000 students and a COVID rate of less than 1 percent.

“Our first week of school, we did have seven cases. Today’s Thursday. We haven’t put a report out; we’re at about 11,” said Superintendent Patti LaBarr.

She says they only big instance so far has been two pre-K classes shutting down as an exposure precaution because those kids were maskless and in close-proximity with one another while eating.

To cut back on students needlessly being put in quarantine, Watertown now has a designated contact tracer. LaBarr says, in most cases, the virus is being spread between siblings at home when they take their masks off.

“As far as in school, in the classroom, with the exception of those two pre-kindergarten classes, no additional students have been placed in quarantine,” said LaBarr.

For those students who are quarantined, how do they learn now when learning from home through an online video conference isn’t an option?

“Our 7-12th grade students have internal tutors that we hire every year,” said LaBarr.

Students 6th grade and under will have a tutor through BOCES for English Language Arts and math.

LaBarr says the district is prepared to change course if COVID takes a turn for the worse.

“We take each day and we face it and we prepare for a better tomorrow,” she said.

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