PORTVILLE — Portville Central School administrators, already planning for a shortened week of Thanksgiving, learned Wednesday night that COVID-19 had once again entered its halls.
“The Portville Central School District has been informed by the Cattaraugus County Health Department that a middle-level student at (the school) has tested positive for COVID-19,” administrators said in a statement.
Seventh-graders were released from attending school Thursday and Friday but were “expected to join their regularly-scheduled classes online.” Eighth- through 12th-graders, as well as elementary students, continued their in-school learning.
High School Principal Lawrence Welty said Thursday he was “unable to add much,” while also saying he understood how frustrating it can be for parents.
“We usually put out what we can,” he said regarding information about COVID-19 cases in the district. He acknowledged that some parents wanted more information than what the school could provide.
“We don’t make decisions as to who will be quarantined,” Welty said. “The county health department has to determine who was together, how long they were together for, who was in attendance, what the seating charts were and where was everybody at any given time; did the infected student go to the nurse. ...”
It wasn’t until 9:30 a.m. Thursday that the school received the final determination as to who needed to be tested and quarantined. The school calls each possibly affected student’s household to “give them a heads up” that they’d be hearing shortly from the Cattaraugus County Health Department, which Welty commended for the amount of work it has done.
Welty had already posted a letter to parents Tuesday, prior to the COVID-19 notification, that students in seventh- through 12th-grades would attend school remotely Monday and Tuesday due to the shortened holiday week. BOCES students had the option of finding transportation to attend BOCES or learn remotely.
Welty also expressed his gratitude for the continued support of parents and families.
“Thank you parents for your continued commitment and support toward the overall educational process of our children under difficult circumstances,” he said, unaware that those circumstances were shortly going to be even more difficult with a student’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
Lynn Corder, elementary school principal, asked in a letter to elementary school parents earlier this week that they follow the guidance of experts and take COVID-19 precautions during the holiday break.
“We are making this decision solely as a precautionary measure to prevent any undue exposure to students or staff in such a shortened week of school,” he said. “I also ask that families familiarize themselves with updated COVID precautions and travel restrictions as outlined by the New York State Health Department. I bring this to your attention as you make plans for Thanksgiving and the need for all families to follow the guidance in keeping school a safe environment for students and staff.”
While the school district has itself learned some lessons this year about virtual teaching outside the classroom, they’ve had to make some adjustments in their fundraising efforts as well.
The annual Scholastic Book Fair will be held online this year, with the same availability of popular books that many purchase as holiday presents, at scholastic.com/bf/portvillepanthers. The books will be shipped to your door, with free shipping on orders $25 or more.
All proceeds will benefit Parents and Teachers Helping Students, a group that hosts student events and provides for scholarships. For more details visit the Portville Elementary Library Facebook page.