At 2,399, the Saugerties Central School District’s (SCSD) student population is fewer than half of that of the Kingston City School District (KCSD), but their COVID-19 numbers since the start of the 2021-22 school year have outpaced other districts in Ulster County.
The SCSD has seen 68 students diagnosed with COVID-19 since early September and Thursday, October 28, with four teachers and eight other staff members bringing the total up to 77. The student total represents 2.71 percent of that population in the district.
The KCSD, with 6,301 students by far the largest district in the county, has had 81 students diagnosed with COVID-19 and 17 teachers and staff for a total of 98. Kingston’s total represents 1.29 percent of the student population.
Other local districts are faring better, with the New Paltz Central School District’s seven students testing positive just 0.37 percent of their district-wide total of 1,898. And in Onteora, where the student population is just 1,225, ten students have tested positive, or 0.82 percent.
The majority of the SCSD’s student cases, 32, have come from students at Saugerties High School. According to the district, Mount Marion Elementary added two new cases last Friday for a total of ten, the junior high school and Charles M. Riccardi Elementary have each had nine students test positive, and Grant D. Morse eight. Thus far, Cahill Elementary has had zero positive cases among its students. Twenty-one students across the district are currently in quarantine, including eleven in the high school.
Despite the comparably high numbers, SCSD Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt said there is nothing to show that the district’s pandemic protocols — which include masks in schools, social distancing with a minimum of three-feet, daily screening for staff, periodic screening for students, enhanced ventilation and contact tracing — haven’t worked.
“It’s not happening in the buildings,” said Reinhardt on Friday, October 29. “I feel really good about our protocols, I feel really good about everything our staff and our students are doing. I still think most of it comes from things that happen outside of the school day, and I think most people realize that it’s happening outside of the classroom.”
Reinhardt said he recognized how difficult it is to have to quarantine in the middle of the school year.
“It’s always tough,” Reinhardt said, “Nobody ever wants someone not to be in school who wants to be here.”
While school districts offered a fully remote learning option through the 2020-21 school year, school officials have cited the impracticality of continuing that when students returned to the classroom full time for the 2021-22 school year in September. But for students who are in quarantine, Reinhardt said the district is offering virtual tutoring from teachers in the afternoon.
“We have staff that have agreed to work with them, and it seems like it’s good so far,” Reinhardt said. “If parents have any concerns about it, hopefully they’ll reach out to us.”
After the Delta variant caused a spike over the summer, cases have begun to decline in the United States. That’s true in Ulster County, where active cases have hovered just below 300 since late September after peaking at 698 on Sunday, September 12; that was the highest total since 1,083 on Saturday, April 24. Cases plummeted through spring and much of summer, and there is hope that they might do so again, as news about the imminent availability of a vaccine dose safe for children between ages 5-12.
“I’ve been reading the news every day,” said Reinhardt.