2 school districts go virtual after Thanksgiving due to coronavirus. See you


At least two school districts in the Central New York region have decided to shift to distance learning for all students from Thanksgiving until after the December holidays.

Whitesboro in Oneida County and Little Falls in Herkimer County are switching to remote learning starting Nov. 30 and continuing until Jan. 4. School superintendents in those districts said they decided to make the change due to the rising coronavirus cases in their areas.

It’s an unusual move in Central New York. Many districts are doing what they can to stay open, even when students and staff test positive. In the yellow zone area of Onondaga County, testing shows only a 0.18% positivity rate among students tested in seven school districts. The county reported six positive coronavirus test results among 3,322 tests conducted at schools in the past week.

But the two school superintendents at Whitesboro and Little Falls see it as necessary in their districts.

Whitesboro School Superintendent Brian Bellair said in a message to parents that shifting to remote instruction for a day or two and then resuming school can be very disruptive. Plus, cases are skyrocketing.

In Oneida County, cases rose from 67 on the first day of school to 852 earlier this week, a 1,270% increase. The Whitesboro district has had 17 positive cases among students and staff, with a total of 361 students and staff requiring quarantine so far, Bellair said.

“Both positive cases and required quarantines have increased considerably in recent days,” Bellair said. “At this rate, we anticipate unavoidable and unpredictable closures of our buildings and/ or district.”

The shift to remote instruction give parents and students stability, he said, particularly as cases are expected to rise following holiday get-togethers.

“We consider this transition important and necessary,’’ he said.

Little Falls Superintendent Keith Levatino told parents much the same, noting the spike in cases is driving the district’s decision. The district plans to resume in-person learning Jan. 4.

In some states across the country, school districts are doing the same, including the Denver public schools, some schools in Illinois among others.

It doesn’t appear schools in Onondaga County will follow suit.

Jordan-Elbridge School Superintendent James Froio said he believes “schools are the safest place to be” for students.

Elizabeth Doran covers education, suburban government and development, breaking news and more. Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact her anytime at 315-470-3012 or email edoran@syracuse.com



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