It was great while it lasted.
Superintendent David Carr on Nov. 18 said how glad he was that Wallkill Valley High School was able to offer three straight months of in-person instruction with no incidents of coronavirus.
Four days later, the school switched to all-virtual instruction because of the COVID-19 level of threat increased statewide from yellow to orange. Other schools in Sussex County, including Sparta and Vernon, have also moved to remote instruction.
Carr said the faculty and administrators have learned a lot during the time the school was holding classes on campus.
“The teachers have done a great job working with all these new tools and technology that we thought a year ago we would never have to use on a continuous basis,” he said. “In addition, we worked really hard at understanding that there was a good possibility we would have to go virtual.”
Carr said administrators meet regularly with health department representatives. They recently provided the number of cases in Sussex and explained the color-coded levels, which reflect the percentage of cases.
The health department looks at the percentage of total positive COVID-19 tests out of all the tests that are performed. Carr said if the percentage of cases goes up to 10 percent — “which we do not want”— that would prompt a change from the yellow level, which is moderate risk, to orange, high risk.
The health department monitors the levels each week, and the numbers are reported every Friday to the school.
Carr said the numbers have increased in a short amount of time:
● On Oct. 24 the positivity rate was 4.46 percent;
● On Oct. 31 the positivity rate increased to 5.76 percent;
● On Nov. 7 the positivity rate increased to 8.53 percent.
The numbers as they are reported are a week behind.
“The health department is anticipating that they will hit the 10 percent mark,” Carr said.
That would change from the yellow level to the orange level in Sussex County, which puts into effect many protocols that would make it impossible for the school to stay open in a school setting, Carr said.
One of the biggest challenges is that any symptom of COVID-19 must be treated as a positive case, Carr said. This would affect staffing and a large number of students to quarantine depending on completion of the contact tracing, he said.
“Everyone has been doing their best,” said Carr. “The kids have been great, the entire staff comes to work every day, parents have been excellent in filling out the screening forms, and the process that the school nurse has put into place is working.”