As of Friday in the Newfane Central School District, eight students were sent home with symptoms that could be connected to COVID-19, when those students can return is an issue for district educators.
Superintendent Michael Baumann said that the district has gotten confusing guidance from the Niagara County Department of Health on when the students can return, but that five of the eight cases’ symptoms have resolved, have tested negative for COVID and will have a doctor’s note to return.
“There’s still a whole lot of controversy swirling around out there about what exactly are the requirements that are required by the board of health,” Baumann said.
Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said that many people have misinterpreted the guidance his department has received from New York State Department of Health.
According to Stapleton, the guidance reads a student may return to school when their symptoms are resolved, have a note from their doctor and a negative COVID test. Stapleton that explanation was given to him by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health.
“We’re waiting for a change in guidance,” Stapleton said, noting he would be following the current guidance until it changed. “But we’ve been waiting for six weeks.”
Despite the confusion on when a student can return, the response to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis of a student who has attended the school is pre-planned, said Baumann.
“If someone does get tested positive, that’s turned over to a contact tracer,” Baumann said. “The Health Department turns it over to a contact tracer, who interviews the kid and their parents, and then they make the determination of what kind of notification needs to go out.”
Baumann said a letter would be sent out to the parents’ of the students in the class, but the class wouldn’t necessarily be sent home unless the contact tracer said otherwise.
“My understanding was the whole purpose of putting them into a classroom six-feet apart, limiting it to 12 kids and having them wear masks all the time was if one child was diagnosed, we didn’t have to self-quarantine all of them,” Baumann said.
One of the issues that Baumann had anticipated to be a problem, the mandated wearing of masks in the building, has actually been a non-issue.
“Kids are bringing in their own. We do have plenty. Masks we’re pretty well stocked up on, literally tens of thousands of masks,” Baumann said.
Baumann said the main area that needs improving is instruction.
“We’ve got to start focusing on instruction, that’s the next step, we need to find out where the kids are,” he said. “But luckily with 12 kids in a classroom … the kids are going to get a lot of one-on-one attention … especially in elementary where the kids are there everyday. I’m hoping were going to get a handle of where the kids are and start moving them forward in terms of instruction and in terms of achievement.”
“The kids have been incredibly cooperative, they’ve really been towing the line,” Baumann said. “We’re trying to find all the glitches and things that are getting in the way, but we’ve come a long way.”