It’s been a bit of good news-bad news for St. Johnsbury School the last few days.
The PreK-8 school headed into the weekend with 3 classes shuttered because of positive coronavirus tests, which in turn resulted in close contact determinations for some members of the St. Johnsbury Recreation Department soccer teams. The cases were detected among the kindergarten, 3rd grade and 5th-grade communities - forcing them to shift to remote learning for the week..
Then on Sunday afternoon, the school-issued two additional notifications in quick succession that more cases had been identified. The first announcement indicated two new cases had been within the PreK and 3rd grade, forcing two additional homerooms to shift remote. Later Sunday afternoon the second notification indicated an additional kindergarten class had been impacted by a positive test and would be moving remote. By the end of the weekend, the school of nearly 700 students had 6 classrooms readying to learn remotely this week plus potential additional staff and students who may have been identified as close contacts to the cases.
The school week, however, started with some good news when school officials announced one of the initial cases impacting the 5th grade, which was initially identified by an at-home test, was determined to be a false positive by a confirmatory PCR test.
“We have good news,” started the school letter, which stated all students considered a close contact based on that one case could return to school without the need for a PCR test. This also allowed for the resumption of the Rec. Department soccer team activities.
“The Vermont Department of Health encouraged the Rec Department and our school to use this initial testing to guide our decision related to moving the classroom to remote and to notify all close contacts. The PCR test is the more definitive test and therefore we feel that it is safe for all students to return to in-person learning,” said Co-Principal Jeremy Ross.
Despite the bit of good news, cases across the Northeast Kingdom continue to remain elevated. According to the Health Department, Friday was one of the top 10 days in the three counties for new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
There were 40 new cases identified Friday, with 6 in Essex County, 14 in Caledonia County and 20 in Orleans County. There were another 37 identified in the NEK on Saturday and 8 on Sunday. The 7-day average now stands at 17 cases per day, the highest it has been since late April.
The region also recorded another COVID-related death over the weekend with the 9th death in Caledonia County. There have been two deaths in Caledonia County in as many weeks. The NEK total is now 24 deaths with 2 in Essex County and 13 in Orleans County.