COVID forces three area schools to go remote

COVID-19 has forced three Chautauqua County elementary schools to move to a remote format beginning today. District officials in Dunkirk, Bemus Point and Silver Creek announced the moves for different reasons.

Dunkirk School 7, an elementary building, will be in remote-learning mode today to Wednesday.

In a press release late Sunday, Superintendent Michael Mansfield announced the Chautauqua County Health Department notified the district of a staff member at the school testing positive. “The district has worked closely with the (Health Deparment) to identify close contacts to the staff member,” Mansfield wrote. “Those individuals identified as close contacts have been contacted by the (Health Department) or the school nurse.”

According to Bemus Point Superintendent Joe Reyda, two positive cases — one in the elementary school and one in the high school — were revealed over the weekend. On Sunday, Reyda said staffing concerns have led to a virtual format for the early grades beginning today through Nov. 6.

“Because of the nature of the elementary situation, we are unable to adequately staff the elementary school,” he wrote on the district’s web site. “As a result, Bemus Point Elementary School will go to a virtual instruction model. … Please be aware that this is currently a staffing issue and not an outbreak. Maple Grove Middle/High school will continue its current hybrid model.

Reyda also invited elementary parents to join a Zoom meeting to discuss the next two weeks at https://zoom.us/j/8378399847.

“The affected individuals have been isolated and the local department of health has or will identify and contact those individuals identified as close contacts of the individuals in question,” Reyda said. “Close contact means being within 6 feet of someone for more than 10 minutes while they are infectious with COVID-19.”

In Silver Creek, the district learned Saturday that two elementary staff members were unknowingly in contact with COVID positive individuals. “When the staff members learned of this, they immediately reported this information to their school supervisor, quarantined themselves, and either got a test or will be getting a test,” the Facebook post announced.

Elementary students in the north county school will be remote from today to Wednesday. Middle and high school students will continue the in-person hybrid learning model as normal. “We have been constantly consulting with the Chautauqua County Department of Health and although there is no alarming concern because of our social distancing practices and face mask policy, we, as a district, believe it is best to do this because it involves two staff members who had unknowingly been exposed and then interacted with students,” the post said. “Therefore, we felt it best to await the COVID test result which we hope to have by Wednesday of this week.”

The district post said it would deliver student iPads and packets, including student belongings from their desks and “cubbies” this afternoon during the normal afternoon bus run. At this same time, officials plan to deliver meals to families along with the students’ iPads, packets and belongings. The packets delivered Monday will include instruction and information for students and parents pertaining to the remote virtual learning that will begin Tuesday.

District officials also were to offer another update to parents on Tuesday.

Through Sunday, here are a list of the 19 confirmed cases at area districts, according to the state’s COVID-19 school report card. Not included in this list is one positive case tied to the Northern Chautauqua Catholic School in Dunkirk.

¯ Bemus Point: one teacher off-site at Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School; one individual at Bemus Point Elementary School; one individual at Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School.

¯ Brocton: one student off-site at Brocton Middle School.

¯ Cassadaga Valley: one student off-site at Sinclairville Elementary School.

¯ Chautauqua Lake: none.

¯ Clymer: none.

¯ Dunkirk: one teacher on-site and one off-site student at Dunkirk Middle School; two students, one off-site and one on-site, at Dunkirk Senior High School; one student off-site at Elementary School 3; one student off-site at School 4; two teachers on-site at School 5; four students, two on-site and and two off-site, at School 7.

¯ Falconer: one student off-site at Falconer Middle-High School; one student on-site at Fenner Elementary School.

¯ Forestville: none.

¯ Fredonia: none.

¯ Frewsburg: none.

¯ Gowanda: one student on-site at Gowanda Elementary School; one student off-site at Gowanda High School.

¯ Jamestown: one student on-site at Washington Middle School; two students off-site at Jamestown High School; one student on-site at Fletcher Elementary School.

¯ Panama: none.

¯ Pine Valley: one student on-site at Pine Valley Elementary School.

¯ Randolph: none.

¯ Ripley: none.

¯ Salamanca: none.

¯ Sherman: none;.

¯ Silver Creek: one student off-site at Silver Creek Elementary School; (NOTE: two elementary staff members “unknowingly” in contact with COVID-positive individuals and remote learning is in place Monday to Wednesday).

¯ Southwestern: two students on-site at Southwestern Senior High School; one teacher on-site at Southwestern Elementary School.

¯ Westfield: none.

As for the weekend, there were 19 new positive cases announced in Chautauqua County with 11 infections noted Saturday and eight on Sunday. County officials offered no other details on the cases, which now total 955.

City editor Eric Tichy and staff writer Cameron Hurst contributed to this report.


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