Virus cases rise in schools

More than 400 reported since September in F.S. district


Coronavirus cases are rising among students, teachers and staff at Elmont and Franklin Square schools amid the surge 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 percent, between Jan. 3 and 16. Additionally, 345 students, 69 teachers and 17 staff members have tested positive at schools in the Franklin Square school district since Sept. 8. And Elmont schools have recorded positive cases for 279 students, 86 teachers and 21 staff members.

“We will continue to work closely with the Nassau County Department of Health and take all necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our school community,” Elmont Union Free School District Superintendent Kenneth Rosner said in a statement released on the district’s website. “I am confident our approach to addressing the safety of students and staff during the pandemic will continue to serve the entire community well.”

A pop-up message on the website of the Franklin Square district recently began to guide those who have tested positive to fill out a Google Forms sheet to report their results.

Both 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 canceled its annual Martin Luther King Day walk due to concerns about the rapid spread of the virus among district students.

“Elmont Memorial has become a ghost town,” Campbell said, referring to the high school, which, according to state data, recorded 114 of its total of 118 cases this school year from Jan. 1 to 13.

Campbell, who has one child at the high school and another at the Elmont district’s Alden Terrace School, said that many students are reporting dramatically less attendance amid the surge of Omicron.

The Sewanhaka and Elmont districts are handling the spread of the virus “somewhat well,” she said, but the districts need to do a better job of communicating about 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 unintentional community spread, she said.

“We need to do this together, or else we can’t move forward,” Campbell said, urging local districts to share more information about positive cases.

She also said that the latest Covid-19 surge has the potential to hurt students socially and psychologically through further isolation. “These kids lost a lot … it just hit everyone differently,” Campbell said. “Kids can’t afford any more time … they need to be kids,” she said, stressing that she believed the isolation brought on by the pandemic has stunted students’ growth.

Students need to get vaccinated, and stay home when they have symptoms, she said.

On Dec. 31, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an extension of the state mask mandate for two weeks, until Feb. 1. She laid out a “Winter Surge Plan 2.0” that featured two points focused on schools: Keep children in schools, and keep increasing vaccines and boosters for both children and adults.

County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed executive orders on Jan. 6 directing local boards of education to vote on whether districts should mandate mask-wearing in schools. Neither Rosner nor Bloom has commented on Blakeman’s directive.