‘Breaking point:’ Dansville schools move to remote learning due to rising COVID cases

Coronavirus

DANSVILLE, N.Y. (WROC) — As COVID cases continue to rise among children, schools are starting to feel the impact.

This week, Dansville Central School District announced they are moving to remote learning due to a rise in positive cases. Superintendent Dr. Paul Alioto said it was a very difficult decision to make, but the district ending up reaching a “breaking point.”

More than 40 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 9 days. In a district of close to 1750, that may not seem like a whole lot, but Alioto said there’s a lot more that led him to make this decision. This includes things he observed over the past week at schools.

“Some of those observations were in the health offices where our nurses have been inundated with children being sent to the offices for testing children who had symptoms, quarantining, and contact tracing. And those cases continue to a point where it was very, very difficult for our health offices to serve the other needs of each school,” Alioto said. 

He added that ongoing staffing shortages in the district also played a role in the district moving to remote learning temporarily, including among substitute teachers and bus drivers.

“Our transportation capacity was down to about 65%, and that means more students on fewer buses, sitting closer together,” Alioto said. “That’s clearly not a situation that we want to promote or continue.”

With staff absent, Alioto said it made it more difficult for others who were present.

“I also looked at the number of teachers who are absent and the teachers who are present picking up the additional responsibilities of covering for those teachers. In the high school we’re combining study halls, we are having principals actually go out and cover classes, you know it makes it difficult for everyone to do their primary jobs well when they’re spread so thin,” he said. 

COVID cases aren’t just rising in Dansville, but across Livingston County. Public Health Director Jennifer Rodridguez said they have having a “significant uptick of cases.”

“We’ve had a real surge over the last few weeks and putting it in perspective…last year at this time we had maybe 88 cases. And yesterday, we had 350 cases,” Rodridguez said. 

She adds that about a third of positive cases are among students, but less than 1% of cases actually come from interactions in classrooms.

“Honestly, our schools do a great job at being diligent with masking and social distancing. But what we do see are some at community events where you’re bringing large groups together, social gatherings, you know maybe you’re not getting it at the hockey game or the basketball game, but if you go to a party after or you’re spending a lot of time in enclosed areas, one person gets sick, they may spread it to one household and then another household gets it,” Rodridguez said. 

She added that Dansville has the highest cases within Livingston County within schools, but again, they aren’t attributing these cases to classroom spread. 

Students will start remote learning in Dansville on Monday, Nov. 22nd. They will return to class on Dec. 1. Alioto said he hopes this time will help bring cases down. 

“We’d like for our students to hunker down for the most part and when they do participate in face-to-face activities with other children and other teens, to be smart and be safe,” he said. “We want to see everyone back in school on Wednesday, Dec. 1st.”

The county health department is hosting a vaccine clinic on Saturday Nov. 20th in the Dansville High School cafeteria. The clinic is for children ages 5 to 11 only and runs from 10 am to noon.  

You do have to make an appointment beforehand. You can do so by clicking here. 

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