As Cortland County’s COVID-19 positive rate rises, McGraw School District still has the small town advantage

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MCGRAW, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — COVID-19 cases are rising in Cortland County, but the McGraw area has been able to stay away from the outbreaks and continue their in-person learning model through the first month-and-a-half of school.

Almost every major school district throughout Central New York has had a COVID-19 outbreak at one point or another, but the McGraw Central School District, which has allowed all students to come to school for in-person learning, has been able to stay COVID-free since the new school year began.

“Well, I think when we see the numbers, we all get concerned, but I think we also have to, again, look at the numbers more specifically,” Melinda McCool, McGraw’s Superintendent, said. “So, McGraw is part of Cortland County, however, McGraw’s rate of infection is extremely low, if at all. So, our numbers, again, our school has zero infection rate, so I feel like we still have that small town advantage, and I think when we look more towards zip codes rather than the entire county, I think we’re still in a good place.”

Cortland County’s COVID-19 positive rate has been on the rise, but the State Health Department hasn’t identified any specific cluster or region as to where the increase in cases is coming from. 

Since the start of the school year at McGraw, students and staff have been wearing masks, socially distancing, and getting temperature checks as they come into school. In addition to the precautions, parents have done a great job of keeping their kids home if they feel sick in order to prevent any outbreaks.

“I have to compliment our parents. Our parents do temperature checks at home, and the children that have been ill have been staying home.”

McGraw School District Superintendent Melinda McCool

The school district has only had to send very few students home because of high temperatures, and McGraw has yet to have a COVID-19 case within the school district. However, a few staff members have had small COVID-19 scares.

“There have been a couple instances where a couple of our adults have had to quarantine because of being around someone in the community that had contracted COVID,” McCool said.

Thankfully, all of the school district’s test results have been negative to this point, as McGraw looks forward to a Halloween parade next week. 

“So, we’ve arranged with our local sheriff and our village to close off a road, and we’re going to allow parents to socially distance themselves along the sidewalks, and do a little parade,” McCool said. “The kids can dress up in their costumes and then our booster club has created these little bags of candy, actually quite large bags of candy, because many of our kids won’t be able to trick-or-treat this year.”

The parade is for roughly 200 elementary school students, who McCool says, are best at following the guidelines in place. 

The superintendent was worried about physical education classes when the school year started, but the teachers at McGraw have gotten creative by using ping pong and a golf simulator.

“One of my P.E. teachers has gotten out the cross country skis and snowshoes. So, he’s putting together, not only a unit, but he’s asking for his winter intramural, which is normally basketball, to be snowshoe and cross country skiing,” McCool said. “So, making some changes to fit the weather and the circumstance, and I have to give my teachers a lot of credit for thinking outside the box and coming up with these ideas.”

Superintendent McCool hasn’t had to think outside the box too much, as McGraw has been able to evade COVID-19 up to this point. If an outbreak occurs, the McGraw Central School District is prepared to work with the Cortland County Health Department and get students back in class as soon as possible. 

“We’ll work really closely with the health department, probably right along with the contact tracers, we’ll do our own tracing,” McCool said. “We know our students best, we know who they’ve come into contact with here at school, and we’ll have to isolate kids from school. I will try to isolate and quarantine as few as possible, and really try to get down to the nitty gritty of who really has to be separated from school because I do know it’s a hardship on our parents when the kids have to go home.”

Superintendent McCool also said she has fellow superintendents, who have already had outbreaks in their school districts, that she can turn to for advice if McGraw has a case of COVID-19.


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