BPES to remain closed Monday; junior/senior high school to reopen

Broadalbin-Perth Elementary School will remain closed Monday, March 8, after a week that saw 35 district employees and nearly 300 students quarantined because of contact with individuals with COVID-19 in the school. The junior/senior high school will reopen to students in the hybrid learning model on Monday.

“This was honestly the worst week we’ve seen all year,” said Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tomlinson. “Even worse than after the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. And the saddest part is, it was entirely preventable.”

Tomlinson said he has received several phone calls from parents upset about the school being closed Friday for deep cleaning, saying they don’t have child care and need to work. 

“I get it, I really do,” Tomlinson said. “There are a lot of people in our community who, if they don’t work, they don’t put food on the table. But we’re still going through this pandemic. It’s not over yet. And we’re seeing too many parents sending their children to school when they shouldn’t — after they’ve been in contact with someone who is sick or has tested positive for COVID, or when their children are sick. Yes, I get that you need to work. But when you send your child to school when you know they shouldn’t be there, we end up in the kind of situation we’re in now where none of our children can go to school.”

Tomlinson said that almost 30% of teachers and TAs at the elementary school are out on quarantine, and the building cannot operate with such a staffing shortage. The district is also without half of its nursing staff, which does contact tracing every time there is a positive case of COVID-19 in the schools, and Tomlinson said they just can’t keep up.

“Our nurses are overwhelmed and, understandably, they’re missing people,” Tomlinson said. “Quite frankly, it would be irresponsible to keep our doors open when we can’t guarantee that we’ve identified every individual — student and staff — who may have come into contact with someone who has COVID.”

Tomlinson said the nursing staff will continue to work with Fulton County Public Health on contact tracing for all known positive cases while the schools are closed.

“We’re going to continue to monitor this situation, but we’ve learned that circumstances can change by the minute,” Tomlinson said. “We will update our school community as quickly as we can if we need to change course, but as long as the numbers don’t continue to rise, our plan is to reopen BPES on Tuesday.”

Tomlinson reiterated that strict protocols regarding social distancing, hand washing/sanitizing, and mask-wearing are enforced in the schools, and he encourages all district families to continue to take every precaution possible to minimize the spread of COVID-19.