New Fairfield schools remain closed due to COVID-19 concerns
NEW FAIRFIELD — Students and staff are working remotely this week after COVID-19 concerns shut down New Fairfield’s public schools on Friday.
The concerns stem from a private, out-of-town event attended by several staff members and students the weekend before last, Superintendent Pat Cosentino said.
New Fairfield schools had an unplanned early dismissal Friday after it was learned that several attendees of the event — none of whom were from New Fairfield’s school community — tested positive for the novel coronavirus, she said. Details of the event have not been disclosed by school officials.
“Those members of our school community had also just learned of their possible exposure and had not yet been tested,” Cosentino said in a letter to parents and guardians on Saturday, pointing out that the event “was not a school related nor local event.”
In addition to closing schools Friday, the school district contacted the town’s health director and school nurses to begin contact-tracing.
“I felt in an abundance of caution and with the paramount goal of student and staff safety and health that we close … and wait until all of those people who were at that event, who are part of our school system, come back with a negative test,” Cosentino said Friday.
Following discussions with the town’s health director over the weekend, schools officials decided to move to remote learning this week.
“Given that several members of the school community may have had close contact with several positive cases, the health director determined that best practice would dictate a 14-day wait time to be certain none of the exposed individuals test positive or if so, to allow time to complete contact tracing based on known close contacts in the school system,” Cosentino said, noting that “a week has gone by since the event and next weekend will be 14 days.”
Although she is “deeply disappointed” to be on remote learning after seven weeks of in-person learning, Cosentino said it’s important to be safe, as well as flexible, given the circumstances presented by COVID-19.
“We are still in the pandemic. We must be flexible. Our teachers are ready to move to remote learning and your children have been instructed on how to Zoom-in and use the instructional platforms,” she said. “We ask that everyone continue to wear masks, avoid crowds, wash hands and keep physical distance. This situation is a reminder that we are an interdependent community and we must remain vigilant to stay healthy.”
The school district has “initiated contact tracing, proactively, in case any of these members of our school community do in fact have COVID-19,” Cosentino said, and those who had close contact with positive-testing individuals will be notified by Health Director Tim Simpkins or a school nurse.
Due to “privacy and confidentiality issues,” Cosentino said there are details and information that she cannot share, and asks community members to “be kind” and “avoid speculation and finger-pointing.”