Manhasset Secondary School will switch to remote learning next week, and extracurricular activities are suspended, after parties and other gatherings turned into coronavirus "superspreader" events, the school district's superintendent said.
The outbreak was among the largest reported to have affected a single school since the pandemic struck Long Island nearly a year ago.
So far, 38 students have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting Nassau’s health department to recommend the closure, Superintendent Vincent Butera said in a letter Tuesday.
The school will go to remote-only learning from Monday to at least Feb. 26. Further, all extracurricular activities were halted at least through Feb. 26, Butera said. Manhasset Secondary enrolls about 1,500 students, of whom 500 participated remotely before the latest shutdown.
The high school has canceled its winter sports season because of the outbreak, according to Jim Amen, the school's director of athletics.
For Manhasset's wrestling team, the scheduling shift meant shortening a season of about nine weeks to two-and-a-half weeks, participants said. Still, teammates and parents rated time spent as a partial success, with two seniors selected to compete for college programs.
"It's a very unfortunate time, but the fact we still had part of our season was important," said Rishabh Jajoo, 17, a senior and co-captain of the wrestling team.
The other co-captain, Jack McCusker, 18, agreed and added that the pandemic had placed pressures on students generally.
"Students are so pent up, they have to get out," McCusker said. "Parties have become big events, and they turn into superspreaders."
Pat Pizzarelli, executive director for Section VIII, confirmed that Manhasset’s remaining contests for wrestling and boys and girls basketball were canceled.
Manhasset schools are on winter recess this week.
In his letter, Butera wrote, "Many of the students who have tested positive have been asymptomatic, causing a false sense of security."
He added, "These disconcerting actions by members of our community continue to put our entire school community at risk and cause a heightened sense of fear and anxiety."
Any child who attended a party or gathering, or who was in contact with anyone who did so in the last 10 days, should be tested and quarantined, he said.
Positive test results should be reported to the Nassau County Department of Health at 516-227-9570 and by email to Allison Rushforth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The school gym will be open for coronavirus testing of students from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Parents should register in advance, Butera said.
Nassau County Executive Curran, speaking at a news conference in Hicksville, said it was premature to say whether anyone would be fined or incur penalties as a result of the outbreak. She said she had no details about the superspreader events.
"The contract tracers are going to do what they do and see where it leads," Curran said.
Later, asked if Nassau might fine hosts as Suffolk has, she added, "We have to do the investigation. I don’t want to prejudge anything."
"I feel sad for the kids. I feel sad for the community," Curran said. "It’s really a tough time for kids who need to be social, and who need to be active."
With Gregg Sarra