Multiple exposures of students and staff to Covid-19 cases have led schools in Chester, Deep River and Essex to transition to remote learning until November 30.
There are currently 23 staff members and 123 students in the district who are in quarantine, according to a letter from Region 4 Superintendent Brian White. In addition, the letter said, the district is investigating a number of new cases in conjunction with the Connecticut River Area Health District.
Both Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School dismissed early on Thursday after the schools learned about a positive case of a student at Valley Regional. The same student rode on a school bus that also transported students to John Winthrop. On the same morning, the district learned of a positive case at Essex Elementary school, which also had an early dismissal.
“It did come in fast and furious,” White said at a Board of Education meeting on Thursday.
All three schools were in remote learning on Friday and Monday. The schools are undergoing a deep cleaning.
At Valley Regional, 17 students and two staff had also been quarantined after participating in a private football game over the weekend of October 31-November 1.
The large number of quarantined staff has also exacerbated a problem the district was facing even before the pandemic — a shortage in staffing. White said the district had several vacancies they had been unable to fill.
“We’ve seen little to no applicants, in some cases no applicants whatsoever,” he said. “It is an ongoing problem. We do not anticipate it getting any easier.”
The students, on the other hand, have been largely attending in-person. White said that upwards of 90 percent of students had been attending in-person for much of the year.
“We’ve essentially had a need for all hands on deck, so to speak,” said White.
The combination of multiple vacant positions, a dearth of substitute teachers and staff missing school because of coronavirus nearly forced the school to go remote twice last week.
Valley Regional, Essex Elementary and John Winthrop are undergoing a deep cleaning. Families can pick up Grab and Go meals Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. outside the school.