Franklin Co. schools prep to go remote | Local News

Eufemia Didonato

Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Russ Bartlett said no one was surprised but all were “hugely disappointed” Monday when the Franklin County Health Department asked every school in the county to return to remote instruction as COVID-19 numbers spike. Schools in the north end of the county, where more […]

Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Russ Bartlett said no one was surprised but all were “hugely disappointed” Monday when the Franklin County Health Department asked every school in the county to return to remote instruction as COVID-19 numbers spike.

Schools in the north end of the county, where more known cases have been, went remote Thursday, and schools in the south end will move online Monday.

The Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES District recommends that they stay remote until at least Jan. 4, 2021, but some districts may make their own decisions.



Bartlett said the majority of parents have opted to keep their kids home already.

He said the change on Monday will be harder for elementary school students, because they have been learning in person four days a week, while middle-high school students have been half-remote all semester, with two days in person and two days online. The neighboring Saranac Lake Central School District has the same model.

Bartlett said it will be hardest for working families.

“Honestly, that was the biggest heartache in all of this was knowing how disruptive it was to families,” he said.

The biggest loss, he said, is the socialization students had gotten used to.

“School is such a social function,” Bartlett said. “When you take that part out of the school day, you’re really taking out more than half of what we do here.”

He said even short, two-second interactions with students can reveal a lot to teachers and tip them off when something is wrong.

He said he has tried to keep in contact with families, especially through social media.

He said meals will be provided at central pick-up locations at the Tupper Lake Civic Center and the Ivy Terrace apartments’ community room.

He said the closure will probably continue beyond Thanksgiving, when colleges send students home. He said that the fewer social gatherings there are over the holiday, the better chance the community has of slowing the spread, and he considers school to be a sort of social gathering.

Bartlett said the kids in his district have been “fantastic” about masks and social distancing. He said there has been a feeling of defeat now, because they had hoped following all the rules would let them avoid having to close, but he said sometimes you can’t win.



SLCSD Superintendent Diane Fox said Wednesday that a shutdown of in-person learning like this has been anticipated for a while, and the district has been prepared for it.

“To be honest, I am surprised that we made it 10 weeks into our hybrid instruction,” she said.

She said she hopes this change will be temporary, adding that if COVID numbers decline, students could come back to school sooner than Jan. 4.

She said students and staff will miss socialization the most, adding that many students who started the year remotely chose to return to in-person instruction at the five-week mark.

“It’s been wonderful to have our whole family back together, staff and students in the building,” she said.

She said the district has just opened its gymnasiums, cafeterias and auditoriums to hold whole classes, with smaller cohorts of students still distanced and masked.

“We were just getting to the point where it was feeling like school,” Fox said.

The district’s community school liaison Erika Bezio said there is a slew of resources to help families make the transition to remote learning.

“We are trying to be as resourceful and helpful as possible and recognize that this is a hardship on everyone,” Bezio said.

Breakfast and lunch meals will continue at no cost. The county will deliver them to homes through Thanksgiving and then move to a pickup location. A food pantry run through the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity will be open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The number to call there is 518-897-1446.

Community Connections of Franklin County has an office in the high school building offering assistance with resources including housing, utilities, food and health insurance.

Bezio said there is funding through the CARES Act to help families offset the cost of registered day care centers. She also said the YMCA is offering child care during the closure at the Petrova Elementary building at a rate of $25 per day for kids 5 to 12 years old.

She said there was already a strong population of families using this child care service before and after school and on Wednesdays, when all school buildings are closed for cleaning, and now more people are using it.

Bezio noted that the regional United Way has a 211 number for housing and utilities assistance. There is a counseling line for students at 518-897-1550.

She said the district can offer case-specific financial assistance for internet access.

The general local line for COVID-19 questions is 518-897-1404, Bezio said.

“Our staff is remarkable, and they are all making sure that their students have what they need to be successful during this time,” she said.

Carol Schmidt, a first-grade teacher at Bloomingdale Elementary School, is offering to meet with parents of students in her class over video chat on Sunday to go over what to expect on Monday. Of her 18 first-grade students, 17 have been in person and will now be going to day care centers when their parents work.

“I know last year it was very difficult for families who did not know what to expect,” Schmidt said. “It is a big change for my classroom in particular, so I decided to help my parents out in any way possible to answer those questions ahead of time.”


A positive case of COVID-19 has been discovered within the Lake Placid Central School District.

The district was notified of the case on Friday afternoon and notified families via phone. The Essex County Health Department announced the case to the broader community on Friday evening.

The district is declining to say at this time whether the case was found in a student, teacher or staff member. The person was isolated after learning of the exposure to someone outside the school community who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the county Health Department.

The county Health Department was still investigating the case and identifying close contacts at press time Friday evening.

“The positive case is isolating at home and those identified as contacts are in the process of being reached by our department,” Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers said in a statement. “Anyone determined to be a contact of the positive case will receive a call from the Health Department to discuss their risk and the measures necessary to reduce further infections.”

The risk of exposure is low because of health and safety practices the district has implemented, according to the county Health Department.

Lake Placid Elementary School will continue to operate with in-person classes, but students at Lake Placid Middle-High School will be learning remotely on Monday, per the district’s reopening plan, according to Superintendent Roger Catania. The school will be closed for at least 24 hours on Monday, during which time the building will be deep-cleaned. The school will stay closed until administrators can reassess the situation based on the county’s investigation and contact tracing efforts, according to Catania.

“We’re going to get out more information as needed from the school itself about remote instruction,” he said. “For now, what parents need to know is that students will remain home on Monday with school instruction being delivered remotely.”

There were 15 active cases of COVID-19 across Essex County on Friday, five of them new since Thursday. Eight of those 15 are in the town of North Elba, while the towns of Jay, Keene, St. Armand, Wilmington, Essex, Schroon and Moriah have one each.

In neighboring Franklin County, there were 54 active cases of COVID-19, 10 new cases reported Friday, four of which are isolating in another county. Altogether, 323 people are either in isolation or quarantine across the county.

Statewide, 2.65% of 203,721 tests processed came back positive on Thursday, down from 2.95% on Wednesday.

Anyone with questions about COVID-19 can call the Essex County Health Department at 518-873-3500 or visit

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