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Norwich schools report more student COVID-19 cases, but remain in hybrid learning

Norwich — Four students in the Norwich Public School system, and five students and one staff member at Norwich Free Academy have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus in the past several days while schools were in remote learning.

Public Schools Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow said the return to hybrid in-person learning will continue through this week at least.

Norwich schools and NFA had shifted to fully remote learning on Oct. 2, one day after the state declared a COVID-19 alert for Norwich. Schools returned to hybrid in-person learning – with half the students in school at a time and all students in remote learning on Wednesdays – on Monday. All four public school students and the five NFA students who tested positive were in remote learning and there were no in-school exposures, Stringfellow said in the letters.

The NFA staff member tested positive on Oct. 19 and is quarantining at home, Head of School Brian Kelly said in a letter to staff and families.

“This individual had no interaction with students at the time because we were in remote learning,” Kelly wrote. “Anyone deemed a close contact with this staff member has been notified and provided with appropriate information by the health district and our medical center.”

Kelly said there is no evidence of spread of COVID-19 due to on-campus contacts. The cases were deemed to be “community spread” exposure.

Stringfellow said Monday the schools will remain in hybrid learning this week, awaiting an update on the COVID-19 health data on Friday.

Stringfellow sent letters to staff and families on Oct. 22 saying that a student at the Teachers Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 19. The student last was in school on Oct. 1, before the schools shifted to fully remote learning temporarily. Also on Oct. 22, Stringfellow alerted staff and families that a student at the Uncas Elementary School tested positive on Oct. 19. That student last had been in school on Sept. 29.

On Monday, Stringfellow sent two additional letters, one announcing that a student at the Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet Elementary School had tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 17, and one saying a student at the Veterans’ Memorial Elementary School had tested positive on Oct. Oct. 22. In both cases, the students last had been in school on Sept. 29, and there were no in-school exposures.

Uncas Health District Director Patrick McCormack said the numbers for Norwich remain “high,” but there has been a drop. According to numbers provided by Uncas Health District Monday, Norwich's overall COVID-19 positive test rate has dropped from nearly 10% on Oct. 1 to about 4%, and the dropped from a high of nearly 50 per 100,000 population to about 28 cases per 100,000.

“The school environment, for the most part, has done very well,” McCormack said Monday. “While we may have community spread at a high level, the schools have a plan or procedure that addresses illness very well. And as long as they implement that plan, they have been able to manage very well.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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