All schools in Franklin County will shift to fully remote learning through Jan. 4, Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES announced earlier this evening.
Franklin County Public Health officials strongly recommended making this change because COVID-19 infection numbers have risen exponentially in the last week, calling it an epidemic within a pandemic. The county has reached a point of community spread, meaning officials aren’t able to identify where every case comes from.
In a Monday morning video call, health department leaders asked for help containing the virus from superintendents of each of the seven school districts within Franklin County as well as the district superintendent of Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES.
“While contact tracing helps, it can only do so much when people don’t remember who they’ve been in contact with or aren’t truthful with us, and it only works after people have already gotten sick,” said Franklin County Director of Public Health Kathleen Strack. “This is about trying to stop the virus from spreading.”
Since the highest rate of infection is being seen in the north end of the county, four school districts in that region – Brushton-Moira, St. Regis Falls, Salmon River and Malone central school districts – as well as FEH BOCES’s North Franklin Educational Center in Malone will shift to remote learning quickly. Staff and students will attend school in person on Tuesday, Nov. 10, to prepare for the shift to remote learning, which will start on Thursday, Nov. 12. Students have Wednesday, Nov. 11, off for the Veterans Day holiday.
Chateaugay Central School District, also part of Franklin County’s north end, was already fully remote this week due to a COVID-19 exposure and will stay remote through Jan. 4.
In the south end of the county, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake central school districts as well as FEH BOCES’s Adirondack Educational Center in Saranac Lake will go remote as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread in the north end from reaching that area. These schools will use this week to prepare and then shift into remote learning on Monday, Nov. 16.
Two school districts in the FEH BOCES region will continue with in-person learning. The Long Lake Central School District is in Hamilton County and the Lake Placid Central School District is in Essex County. Infection rates in those counties do not yet warrant school closure.
Every effort will be made to preserve and promote the educational quality of instruction over the course of this period of remote learning.
A break through the holidays
Many of the COVID-19 spikes across the nation have happened after holiday gatherings, celebrations and long weekends that are traditionally times for travel. Franklin County Public Health officials say much of the current uptick in infection rates is related to travel and gatherings for Columbus Day and Halloween.
Franklin County school leaders are currently planning to return students to in-person learning on Jan. 4, but county health officials are concerned that if people don’t change their behavior, it may force school districts to extend that date.
Leaders at each of the school districts in the county ask the community to follow the basic guidelines to prevent COVID-19:
- Stay home whenever possible
- Stay 6 feet away from people from outside the household
- Wear a mask in public
- Wash hands regularly
- Don’t host or attend large gatherings
“We ask community members to join us in doing everything they can to stop the COVID spread,” said FEH BOCES District Superintendent Dale Breault. “I know the pandemic has been a long, hard road already, but we hope everyone will help us get our kids back to school where they belong.”
Breault and the superintendents from each school district plan to keep an eye on all the data coming from the Franklin County Department of Health, and they may change the current plan if necessary.
Any parent who needs help finding daycare options can email [email protected] or call 518-483-6420, ext. 9.