Some schools switch to full remote

AuSable Valley, Boquet Valley, Malone will not be in-person for first weeks of new academic year

Scenes like this, in the AuSable Valley Middle-High School cafeteria in December 2014, will be absent for some time, especially now that the AuSable Valley Central School District is postponing the return of in-person education at least until Oct. 5. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

Students at the AuSable Valley Central School District will return to classes remotely next month, Superintendent Paul Savage announced Thursday evening.

The announcement reverses the district’s initial plan to welcome students back to school for half-remote, half-in-person learning.

The full-remote schedule will last at least until Oct. 5, according to Savage. Parents should receive a remote schedule from their students’ principal soon.

“After much painstaking consideration, review, and consultation, it is with a heavy heart that I am announcing that we will be delaying our in-person reopening as originally planned at AVCS,” Savage wrote on social media. “I am not 100% confident that we can reopen safely including needing more time to receive appropriate PPE supplies that are in shortage; various bus and building challenges; we need time to review and assess the potential impact of reopening on the safety of all involved; and we need time to see if there are any further spikes around our local communities like there have been over the past week. We need to be methodical in our reopening process and we need to be patient!”

The district’s decision to welcome students back remotely on Sept. 8 comes as Essex County experiences its first major COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing home in the county seat.

The outbreak at Essex Center in Elizabethtown has taken the lives of four people and spread the coronavirus to at least 81 people as of Thursday. The AVCS district doesn’t include Elizabethtown, but serves students from some nearby areas, such as Keene and Jay.

“We are close communities in the North Country and it has directly impacted some of our very own local families of AVCS. That is a fact that can’t be ignored or dismissed,” Savage said.

The nearby Boquet Valley Central School District initially planned to also welcome students back on a part-remote, part-in person schedule. The district announced on Tuesday that it would instead welcome students back remotely.

Farther north, the Malone Central School District announced Monday it will have full remote teaching from Sept. 8 to at least Sept. 21. One reason is that more than 30% of parents indicated in a survey that they planned to keep their children 100% remote.

“I’m watching what is happening in school districts across the country that have already opened as well as the impact this crisis has had on several college campuses. It seems that every day that goes by another school district or college campus is shutting down and moving to remote learning due to COVID-19 spikes,” Superintendent Jerry Griffin wrote in a letter to the school’s community. “I want to make sure that we are ready to safely welcome our students back into the building and not run into the problems that I’m seeing elsewhere.”

The Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, Keene and Long Lake school districts all plan a mix of in-person and remote education, and hadn’t announced any changes to those plans as of Friday morning.