Superintendents reflect on difficult decision making during COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

(WSYR-TV) — Superintendents across Central New York have had to step up in ways they’ve never expected; dealing with low staffing, more cases, quarantines, and constant changes.

“Since mid-November, we’ve gone from testing 12 to 70 cases really fast,” Liverpool School District Superintendent Mark Potter said when talking about COVID-19 cases.

Potter explained the pace for tracing cases has become much more difficult. Cases in the district’s elementary schools are typically contained to their respective classroom, meanwhile, high school and middle school cases are more complex as students move from classroom to classroom.

When a staff member happens to be exposed or in close contact with a positive student or staff member, Potter explained they are put into a 14-day quarantine and must work from home. This requires the school district to hire a substitute teacher for the day for the in-person students, which isn’t always easy to do.

“There is a significant number of folks who have been retired for a year or two or three who have decided they want to sub. Many of those folks have decided to pull their name out of the sublist because they just feel like there’s a higher risk for them to be involved, especially as a retiree. So there has been an impact on the number of available subs,” Potter explained.

Potter also said that right now it’s all about finding a balance between finding ways to keep schools open while maintaining proper safety guidelines in school districts required by Onondaga County and New York State.

“There hasn’t been transmission identified in our school buildings. We’re really vigilant about making sure we all have our masks on, using PPE,” Superintendent Potter said.

It’s not just Liverpool School District learning to adjust, Central Square school district is also taking COVID-19 cases day by day.

“It gets very frustrating. There are times where I just want to close the door, shut the lights off and put my head down because it’s overwhelming,” Central Square Superintendent Tom Colabufo said.

While there hasn’t any been significant signs of transmission in the Central Square school district, Colabufo says they’re constantly looking at the staffing within the building, and encouraging parents to reach out to the district if they worry about COVID-19 cases.

The Central Square School district falls under three counties: Oswego, Onondaga, and Oneida counties. This means they must report to those respective counties when a case is reported within the school.

“The county health departments are overwhelmed… There’s really no such thing as a 7:30 to 5 o’clock day. It goes all day long,” Colabufo said when talking about keeping constant communication with parents, staff, and the county health departments.

As both superintendents work to keep everyone in their district safe and informed, they ask that parents have trust that they’re working to decide what’s right for their district.



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