Thursday, December 2, 2021

GFSD: Covid cases but little conflict

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

“We’re in our third week; we’ve probably got over 100 students quarantined…we’re in the mid 20’s in positives. Some staff, mainly students,” Glens Falls Superintendent Paul Jenkins told The Chronicle last week.

Was this expected? “Well, we knew because the rate at the county got much higher….we were going to be dealing with it, but I don’t know if we expected it to be right off the bat. We didn’t make it one day without a positive to start the year. And most schools are seeing the same thing.”

Mr. Jenkins said they rapid test almost 200 students and staff three days a week. It’s mostly students; they’re only testing around 30 staff now. They get a result in about 30 minutes.

“Most of the positives we’re getting — either from the county will tell us, or parents will tell us,” Mr. Jenkins said. “We test our student-athletes for football, volleyball and swimming. So we’ve had a couple that way. We’re testing staff as well who are not vaccinated. And we actually had a staff member test positive…”

“The kids are great,” Mr. Jenkins said. “They go right down at the end of the day, and basically for them it’s a couple minute process. They get swabbed, and they leave. And then if we have a positive, then we will contact the county and get the student and get the parent and go from there.”

They then do contract tracing. He says if an athlete tests positive it’s actually easier to handle, “We have a very small percentage of the high school kids who are playing sports who aren’t vaccinated right now.”

Unvaccinated staff can still work, as long as they submit to testing.

Has Glens Falls had conflicts with staff as at Queensbury and Argyle schools?

“Unfortunately, there are a few schools dealing with that. But no, we were lucky,” Mr. Jenkins said.

“I think part of it is, last year, we didn’t go back and forth on the mask thing. Masks were an absolute. We didn’t allow mask breaks. Everybody had to wear them.”

He said, “We did student testing for high risk sports. We did some staff testing…Doing that last year I think helps going into this year with expectations of ‘well, we’ve already done it. It’s not a big deal.’”

“We actually ran another vaccine clinic last week when we started our staff testing, and we had some more students and some staff get vaccinated,” he said.

How about in elementary schools?

“Elementary schools are good. We had to make some adjustments for lunches. That’s the big one. And it’s the same at the Middle School and High School.

“When the kids eat, and they have their masks off, that’s really the trigger for the Department of Health saying, ‘Okay, well, those kids are going to have to quarantine.’”

“Right off the bat, I think the first week, we had a positive in an elementary school, and the kids were three feet apart, eating lunch, so we had to quarantine a handful of kids.”

He said, “Now, what we’re doing is we’re either spreading the kids out so they’re six feet apart, or we’re alternating when they take their masks off.”

For example, “If you and I are next to each other, you take your mask off, I keep mine on, and then we rotate so that nobody is closer than six feet when they have their mask off for lunch.”

How difficult is dealing with Covid?

“Outside of dealing with a loss of a student, or staff member, this is probably the hardest thing we’ve had to deal with,” Mr. Jenkins said. “It’s a major health concern too on top of not just figuring out the logistics of what to do.

“When kids get sick, that’s a major concern, because we have some kids who have mild illnesses, but you just don’t know when someone’s going to have a major reaction to this.”

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