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Back to remote for some schools

Lake Placid Middle-High School goes remote temporarily after student tests positive

Lake Placid Middle-High School (News photo — Andy Flynn)

After a spike in community COVID-19 cases, The Tupper Lake Central School District is forgoing its plans to return to in-person hybrid instruction and is moving to remote learning through the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, a sixth-grader in Lake Placid has tested positive for COVID-19, and the middle-high school there is temporarily going remote.

Saranac Lake schools still plan to resume in-person classes this week, with most students returning to school buildings Thursday. They and Tupper Lake students have been fully remote for the last three weeks.

Tupper Lake

Tupper Lake district Superintendent Russ Bartlett said Sunday, Dec. 5 that cases in town are rising rapidly, which Franklin County Public Health corroborated.

Bartlett said no students or staff have tested positive, that he has heard of, but that between Wednesday and Friday there was a “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases in town, with many people now in quarantine.

Bartlett said an in-person return is planned for Jan. 4.

He said he made the decision with assistance from his administrative team, and that it was a difficult one to make.

“Nobody was happy about it,” he said. “We were eager to be having kids coming back on Monday, so it was kind of disappointing that it didn’t come to fruition.”

He said staying remote is “significantly harder on everybody” but that it is safer.

There will be added difficulties on parents, Bartlett said, because three day cares in town closed this week because they had contacts with COVID-positive people.

Lake Placid

The Lake Placid Middle-High School is moving to remote learning Monday, Dec. 7 after a sixth-grader tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania.

Catania said the student has shown some symptoms, and he hopes for the best for the student’s recovery.

Catania said sixth-grade classes will be remote for two weeks. The rest of grades 7 through 12 will also shift to remote instruction Monday but could return Tuesday or possibly later, depending on what contact tracing reveals.

Catania said Lake Placid Elementary School will continue to operate as normal, with all students attending in person five days a week.

“Essex County Health (Department) has six cases that they are investigating over the weekend, so they are unable to provide us with any immediate feedback or recommendations on a safe response yet,” Catania wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. “However, I do want you to know that this situation will have the greatest impact on our sixth grade, with a number of our sixth-grade students and teachers required to quarantine.

“We’re thinking best wishes for our student to heal quickly and we’re sorry for the disruption to people’s lives,” Catania said. “These situations do result in quarantines for kids and for teachers. That disrupts their lives for the next two weeks.”

Saranac Lake

“I am watching the uptick in positive cases closely and there is presently no change in our return schedule,” Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Diane Fox wrote in a text message.

While most students will return to in-person classes Thursday, certain students — those with disabilities, in BOCES or without internet access — will return Monday.

Changing changes

The remote and in-person schedule and plan has changed many times at this point and may be confusing.

All Franklin County schools went to remote learning in mid November as county public health officials asked them to stop the spread of the virus, which was picking up speed then. The initial plan was to return Jan. 4, after the holiday break.

Last week, citing progress in COVID-19 safety in the county, the seven superintendents of districts in Franklin County and Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES District Superintendent Dale Breault decided an earlier return starting this week would be possible.

Over the weekend, cases in Franklin County spiked to their highest levels yet, and a fair amount of these are in Tupper Lake.

“Unfortunately we’ll probably be dealing with this kind of stop and start pretty regularly,” FEH-BOCES Public Information Specialist Jess Collier wrote in a text message. “We all really appreciate parents being understanding as we do our best to keep students and staff safe.”