GREENVILLE — Scott M. Ellis Elementary School was closed Monday to grades K-5 after a fifth-grade student tested positive for COVID-19 and will remain closed Tuesday.
The district opted to close the elementary school for additional cleaning and disinfecting while the Greene County Public Health Department conducted contact tracing. Elementary school employees were instructed not to report to campus, according to a letter from District Superintendent Tammy Sutherland.
Middle and high school students went to a fully remote model and faculty for grades 6-12 reported to campus to facilitate the online classes. Both in-person and virtual classes were canceled for elementary students.
Contact tracing showed the positive case was linked to the outbreak at the Greene Correctional Facility, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said, describing the situation as potentially avoidable.
“If the correctional facility had let our public health department in there early on to test staff, we could have possibly avoided that,” Linger said.
The county submitted a request to conduct on-site testing for corrections staff a week-and-a-half ago, Linger said.
Public Health was finally permitted to do testing Monday, he said.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision conducted mass testing for inmates at the facility, DOCCS spokesman Thomas Mailey said.
Greene Correctional Facility has 1,157 inmates in its custody and employs 652 people.
Corrections staff wishing to be tested or who have been identified as part of a contact trace may request a COVID-19 test through their primary-care doctor or be tested at a state testing site, Mailey said.
Greene County Public Health reported 87 active cases Friday, with most of the cases stemming from Greene Correctional Facility.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision reported 99 inmates have tested positive at Greene Correctional, six of whom have recovered.
Data from Greene County Public Health shows significantly more inmates have recovered. The county reported Friday that of the prison’s 95 cases, 26 had recovered.
There were about 14 staff cases Friday at Greene Correctional, Linger said.
It’s unclear when Greenville schools will reopen for in-person instruction.
“Once contact-tracing efforts have been completed, families will be notified when the buildings will be reopened for students,” Sutherland said.
Contact tracing can be daunting, especially in schools, Linger said.
“The problem is once it’s into the school, it’s a pretty hefty undertaking to do the contact tracing quickly,” he said. “Kids come in contact with a lot of people.”
The district conducts thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the school grounds and both staff and students are subjected to daily health screenings.
“In these challenging times, rest assured that the district’s priority is the health, welfare and safety of students and staff while complying with government orders and guidance related to the opening of schools,” Sutherland said.
Greenville elementary students receive in-person instruction Monday through Friday. Middle and high school students use a hybrid model in which they are broken into two groups: “Spartan” and “STRONG” and alternate attending school for two days and then attending remotely for two days, according to the school’s reopening plan.
About 19% of students opted for the fully remote learning model.
The district had its first positive case, a middle school teacher, Oct. 2. Sixth-grade students switched to virtual learning and returned to in-person instruction Oct. 14, Sutherland said.
“Sixty-three students and three staff members were instructed to quarantine,” Sutherland said, regarding the first positive test. “Staff were able to telework and students attended school remotely so that there was no disruption to the educational process.”
Many staff members opted to be tested, Sutherland said.
“While no one was required to receive a COVID-19 test, many staff members chose to proactively get tested,” she said. “The district appreciated the efforts of the Greene County Department of Health in providing on-site COVID testing for interested staff members.”