The Niagara Falls School District has recorded a positive novel coronavirus test at another school in the city.
As the district prepares to reopen the Maple Avenue Elementary School to students, teachers and staff on Monday, after it was shutdown because of positive coronavirus tests, the Gazette has learned that a Gaskill Middle School student has now tested positive for COVID-19.
The district was informed of the positive test result by the Niagara County Health Department on Thursday night.
Superintendent Mark Laurrie said the student, a seventh-grader, was last in school on Oct. 6.
"He wasn't feeling well and went to the isolation room (at the school)," Laurrie sad. "When you go home sick, you can't come back without a doctor's note and a COVID-19 test, so he took one and tested positive."
Laurrie said the school district was able to identify 15 other Gaskill students and one teacher who had exposure of more than an hour to the infected student. The superintendent said the exposure occurred in a setting where everyone was wearing a face covering and was socially distanced.
"We supplied the county health department with contact information for them and the county advised (the exposed students and teacher) to quarantine," Laurrie said.
Parents of students at the middle school were notified of the positive test on Thursday night. The school remained open for in-person classes on Friday.
"We felt that with the limited exposure that this person had, we didn't feel it was necessary to shutdown," Laurrie said.
The superintendent said that the decision to stay open could be "subject to change" if there are additional positive test results. He said the school received "just a few" calls from parents expressing concern about the COVID test result.
The Maple Avenue Elementary School School will reopen Monday after a three-week closure prompted by positive COVID-19 tests.
Laurrie said quarantines imposed after the positive tests expired and that the school was ready to welcome back students, teachers and staff.
“All of the quarantines have been lifted,” Laurrie said. “The school is safe and and clean and ready to reopen.”
The school was closed Sept. 28 after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Subsequently, 13 additional individuals at the school received positive COVID-19 tests.
“The NFCSD took quick action and under an abundance of caution closed Maple as soon as we heard of the first positive case at the school,” Laurrie said. “Our partners at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the Niagara County Department of Health acted swiftly and organized COVID-19 testing the day after Maple was closed.”
The county health development said a total of 186 tests were performed during two days of voluntary rapid testing at the school. The positivity rate for the testing was 1%, a statistical level that shows control of the virus.
County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton credited the school district’s decision to move quickly to implement testing with keeping the virus in check. Stapleton has also urged the district to remain vigilant where the virus is concerned.
“Quick, decisive action is paramount to preventing a widespread outbreak,” Stapleton said. “But as we know with COVID-19, you cannot let your guard down.”
Laurrie said the district has heard from “maybe a handful” of parents who have expressed concern about sending their children back to in-person learning.
“And I’m going to give them the opportunity to have their kids do remote learning,” Laurrie said.