Coronavirus cases are increasing among students, teachers and staff at Elmont and Franklin Square schools amid the rise of the Omicron variant.
According to state data, the Sewanhaka Central High School District has reported 2,441 cases since September — 752 of them, or 30%, between Jan. 3 and Jan. 16. Additionally, 345 students, 69 teachers, and 17 staff have tested positive at schools in the Franklin Square School District since Sept. 8. And schools in Elmont have recorded positive cases for 279 students, 86 teachers and 21 staff.
“We will continue to work closely with the Nassau County Health Department and take every precaution necessary to ensure the health and safety of our school community,” the Elmont Union Free School District Superintendent said. Kenneth Rosner, in a statement posted on the district’s website. “I am confident that our approach to keeping students and staff safe during the pandemic will continue to serve the entire community well.”
A pop-up post on the Franklin Square District website recently began guiding people who tested positive to fill out a Google Forms sheet to report their results.
Rosner and Franklin Square Superintendent Jared Bloom declined to comment for this story.
Sarah Campbell, co-founder of the community-focused nonprofit Elmont Strong, said the group had canceled its annual Martin Luther King Day march due to concerns about the rapid spread of the virus among people. district students.
“Elmont Memorial has become a ghost town,” Campbell said, referring to the high school, which according to state data, had 114 of its total 118 cases this school year from Jan. 1-13.
Campbell, who has one child in high school and another at Alden Terrace School in the Elmont District, said many students are reporting a dramatic drop in attendance amid Omicron’s ramp-up.
Sewanhaka and Elmont districts are handling the spread of the virus “fairly well”, but the districts need to do a better job of communicating about the infections. Many students who test positive, Campbell said, are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, a hallmark of the Omicron variant. Not knowing who is infected has led to unintended community spread, she said.
“We have to do this together or we can’t move forward,” Campbell said, urging local districts to share more information about positive cases.
She also said the latest Covid-19 surge has the potential to socially and psychologically hurt students by further isolating them. “These kids lost a lot…it just hit everyone differently,” Campbell said. “Kids can’t afford to hang out anymore…they have to be kids,” she said, stressing that she believed the isolation caused by the pandemic had stunted students’ growth.
Students should get vaccinated and stay home when showing symptoms, she said.
On December 31, Governor Kathy Hochul announced an extension of the state’s mask mandate by two weeks, until February 1. She presented a “Winter Surge Plan 2.0” that had two school-focused points: keeping kids in school and continuing to increase vaccines and boosters for children and adults.
County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed executive orders Jan. 6 directing local school boards to vote on whether districts should mandate mask wearing in schools. Neither Rosner nor Bloom has commented on Blakeman’s directive.