NORFOLK — Anyone who has a question regarding the local impact of COVID-19 on schools may very well find their answer in a series of frequently asked questions and their answers prepared by Norwood-Norfolk Central School Superintendent James M. Cruikshank.
He said the questions came from a number of sources.
“Some of them were from people emailing me. Some I got off social media. Basically people would say something on Facebook and I’m not going to engage in a public dialogue. However, I do have an answer,” Mr. Cruikshank said. “And some were from just direct conversations with people. Those are all the things that I had heard of and I just wanted to relate to it all as well as I could.”
His answers likewise came from a number of sources, including St. Lawrence Health and the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department.
“We meet quite regularly with Public Health and Dr. Williams (Dr. Andrew F. Williams, president of the St. Lawrence County Board of Health),” Mr. Cruikshank said. “Those (answers) are gathered from several meetings and listening to them. I can dissect a lot of the information that comes from them.”
Families were given home testing kits if they wanted them last Friday and were asked to test their students before sending them to school on Monday. That was one of the queries: Why did the school send at-home test kits to families?
“These tests were provided by NYS in an effort to identify post-holiday positive cases,” Mr. Cruikshank replied.
Another question was, “Is the school mandating we test on Monday?” He said the school is not mandating Monday tests.
“You are welcome to save the tests for use at a later time,” Mr. Cruikshank said. “In the past few weeks the at-home tests are very difficult to obtain. This lack of supply will likely continue. We are hoping that the additional tests will help families when they really need one. We thought getting this resource to families would be appreciated.”
Another person wondered, “Is the school using these tests to try and force us to go remote again?” Mr. Cruikshank said the opposite is true.
“Actually, we’re trying to keep our school open for in-person learning. We’ve witnessed the negative impact on kids, both academically and socially, from remote learning. It’s imperative that we keep our kids in the school building,” he said. “We’re hoping these tests will ‘catch’ positive kids before they come into school, therefore not impacting any other students.”
Mr. Cruikshank said nearly all the positive cases identified at the school have been when students or staff who were already positive came into the building.
“There are only a few instances where we know the virus was transmitted at school,” he said. “Each time a positive student is identified at school, we are mandated to conduct contact tracing — potentially taking additional students out of school. We don’t want to take any more students out of school for contact tracing. Keeping positive and symptomatic students at home will actually help our school stay open.”
“Aren’t kids safer at home? Should we pivot to remote learning?” another individual asked.
Mr. Cruikshank said that would happen only if the district absolutely has to move in that direction.
“At school we have an approach layering our protective strategies. It’s not fool-proof, but we’ve only witnessed a few instances where the virus has been transmitted during school,” the superintendent said. “Conversely, we’ve all seen the damaging effects on children from remote learning. Academics and social-emotional well-being have both suffered over the past two years.”
“Children are safer at school,” he added. “This is confirmed by our medical director, public health, SLH (St. Lawrence Health) physicians, NYDOH (New York Department of Health) and a countless number of parents.”
A complete listing of the questions and answers can be found on Mr. Cruikshank’s latest online update at wdt.me/FYunfo.