Four people in the Oceanside School District tested positive for the coronavirus last week, leading the district to close the high school for two days.
School officials reported that two Oceanside High School students, one Fulton Avenue School No. 8 student and one OHS staff member, contracted the virus. There were no other confirmed cases as the Herald went to press on Monday.
Oceanside High School closed on Oct. 8 and 9. Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington sent four letters to district residents from Oct. 6 to 8, after each individual who tested positive informed the district. District officials also notified the Nassau County Department of Health, which has completed contact tracing and alerted anyone who may have been exposed to the infected staff member or students. Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone who was infected must quarantine for 14 days.
After the first two cases, one on Oct. 6 and one the following day, the high school remained open. After the third case was reported on Oct. 7, however, the district decided to close the high school and move to a remote schedule on Thursday and Friday.
“We recognize that this time frame is concerning,” Harrington wrote, “and as a result we have decided that all Oceanside High School students will learn from home for the next two days.”
The OHS student and staff member who tested positive were last in the school on Oct. 2. Officials did not disclose when the final OHS student to test positive was most recently in the building, but noted that the student does not have siblings in the schools.
The School No. 8 student who tested positive was last in the building on Oct. 6 and has one sibling in the same building, which remained open. Harrington released a video message to the community Oct. 8, emphasizing that with all the protocols in place in the schools, “we have been told [by the county Health Department] there should be no risk of exposure in school.”
She went on to recognize that the continual notifications of new cases can cause anxiety for families. “We are doing our best to provide a safe and calm environment for our students and staff,” she said.
Cate O’Brien, whose son is a senior at the high school, agreed with the district’s decision to close the school for two days. “I would rather the cases not grow to 10, in which case it could spread like wildfire,” she said. “When he goes back to school, I will remind him of everything that he has to do and keep my fingers crossed.”
In her letter, Harrington noted that Covid-19 exposure is “limited to anyone who was within six feet of the individual for 10 minutes or more” and “Covid-19 is transmitted through person-to-person contact and through the exchange of respiratory droplets,” according to the Health Department.
The letter also noted that the symptoms of Covid-19 include:
*Shortness of breath
*New loss of smell or taste
*Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Students or family members who exhibit these symptoms are urged to contact a medical provider for advice immediately.
Harrington urged parents and students to practice social distancing and wear masks “outside of the school environment” to keep families safe. “I’m being told by others that students are being seen on our fields, our playgrounds, our parks and other locations without masks or following social-distancing measures,” she said in the video. “While I have no direct jurisdiction on your decisions outside of school, I respectfully remind you that those decisions will impact our schools.”
O’Brien agreed, saying, “What we do outside of school will lend itself to whether people are safe. I’ve seen a lot of people walking around without masks. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have to restrict access to school grounds because of this, and I wouldn’t blame [Harrington] one bit.”
Harrington stressed that the last thing she would want to do is increase restrictions, but health and safety are the top priorities.
“None of this is easy, but we have a thorough, well-designed plan that will continue to guide us through these turbulent times,” she said. “If we work together, we will get through this.”