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WATERTOWN — A sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases within the Watertown City School District has prompted the district to shift to a fully remote learning model for the next three weeks.

In a letter to the school community Friday afternoon, Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr confirmed the district had to make the “difficult” decision to shift to its remote learning plan, which will begin Monday and go through Jan. 29.

“The decision to close school was not made lightly,” she said. “Watertown has decided that closing school for all students was a necessary precaution to prevent further spread of COVID-19 throughout our District and community.”

Mrs. LaBarr said the goal is to return to in-person learning, using the district’s hybrid instruction model, on Feb. 1. Those who learn strictly online will continue to do so once in-person learning resumes. BOCES students will also attend classes online.

Teachers will continue to report to school buildings and provide instruction in a virtual setting.

The district also announced Friday that four students and three employees within different district buildings have tested positive for COVID-19.

The breakdown is as follows: two students at Knickerbocker Elementary School, a student at Case Middle School, a student at Watertown High School, one employee at Ohio Elementary School, one employee at Knickerbocker and one employee at Starbuck Elementary. 

Mrs. LaBarr said the district is working in collaboration with the Jefferson County Public Health Service, which is currently performing the contact tracing process.

In her letter to the district community about the school’s shift to remote learning, Mrs. LaBarr said at this time, the district is pausing on moving any students from the remote learning model to its hybrid model.

“We will revisit this as soon as we are able,” she wrote.

Students in grades K-6 will be expected to follow their teacher’s daily remote instruction schedule, while students in grades 7-12 should follow their daily class schedules, the letter reads.

The letter also states that attendance will continue to be recorded and assignments graded.

“Your continued support of your child’s education during this remote period is greatly appreciated,” Mrs. LaBarr said.

In the event of inclement weather, the district will call delays or snow days as is normally done, the letter reads. There will be no virtual learning on snow days.

School Age Child Care will continue to provide day care services at Jefferson Community College.

Food service will provide pickup for seven meals on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at North Elementary, Ohio Elementary, Sherman Elementary and Watertown High School. The district asks people to sign up in ParentSquare or call 315-661-4025 prior to coming.

All athletics, including intramural sports and the beginning of the swimming season, are indefinitely postponed.

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Assistant Managing Editor

In her role as assistant managing editor at the Watertown Daily Times, Sydney manages the photo department, social media accounts and

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