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Officials: Three Long Island school districts report positive COVID-19 tests

A staff member at New Hyde Park Memorial

A staff member at New Hyde Park Memorial High School has tested positive for COVID-19, officials said. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

The Sewanhaka, Riverhead and Southold school districts reported COVID-19 cases among students and staff on Sunday and Monday, adding to the list of Long Island districts battling flare-ups of the virus as in-person instruction resumes.

Two employees in the Southold School District tested positive for the virus, Superintendent Anthony Mauro wrote in a letter to community members Sunday night. The staffers had been in a school building together preparing for the students’ return Tuesday, he wrote. Workers were disinfecting the building.

In another letter Monday, Mauro said the first day of in-person instruction will be pushed back to Sept. 18 so the "majority" of employees can quarantine.

On Sunday, Sewanhaka Central High School District Superintendent James Grossane announced a staffer at New Hyde Park Memorial High School tested positive for the virus, and had been in "close contact" — within six feet for 10 minutes or more — with nine other employees.

The infected staffer "will not be allowed to return to school for ten days and after a negative test result has been provided to the district," Grossane wrote in a statement posted on the district website. Those who had been in close contact with the staff member will quarantine for two weeks, the statement read.

The school still plans to begin in-person instruction Thursday.

"We will continue to work closely with the Commissioner of Health and the Nassau County Health Department and take all necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our school community," Grossane said.

In a statement posted online Monday, Interim Riverhead Central School District Superintendent Christine Tona said two siblings who attend Aquebogue Elementary School tested positive for the virus.

The Suffolk County Department of Health has directed teachers and students in the siblings' cohorts to quarantine for two weeks. The district has closed off and is cleaning the spaces where they had gathered, Tona wrote. Classes resumed in the district last week.

"The health and safety of our students, their families, and our staff is the highest priority," Tona wrote.

The Carle Place school district is also delaying in-person instruction in the wake of four students testing positive as of Friday.

"As you know, many of the positive COVID-19 cases appear to be related to attendance at end of summer parties … we have learned that some of those testing positive have had close or proximate contact with other students throughout our district," said Superintendent Christine A. Finn in a letter to parents on Monday, adding that remote learning would begin Sept. 9.

The new cases follow a week in which the Islip, Smithtown and Bellmore-Merrick school districts reported that COVID-19 had infected one employee in each district.

While New York City has announced a plan to randomly test 10% to 20% of students and staff each month in city public schools, the state Education Department "strongly recommended" against schools requiring tests, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Southold, Riverhead and Sewanhaka reopening plans do not include provisions for mandatory testing of all or random groups of students or staff. The Sewanhaka and Riverhead districts, through spokeswoman Deirdre Gilligan, did not answer questions Monday about what led to the detection of their cases. Mauro did not respond to questions about the cases in Southold.

Kathryn Canese, president of the New Hyde Park Memorial High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association, said Monday that news of an infection at the school made her "slightly more nervous" but was not entirely surprising.

"I think we have to expect that this is going to happen, and that we need to trust that the plan is in place to be able to handle it and hopefully move forward and keep everyone as safe as possible," said Canese, who has two sons at the high school.

"I have a lot of faith in our administration that they're going to do everything they need to do to keep our students and our teachers and our staff all safe," she said.