KIPP NYC Charter School Temporarily Goes Virtual Due to Staff Illnesses – Chalkbeat New York | Team Cansler

A charter school in Manhattan is temporarily switching to distance learning because 17 of its 54 employees were sick Tuesday, school officials said.

Administrators at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School told families in an email Tuesday that the school would go virtual Wednesday through Friday “due to staff shortages related to staff quarantine and positive testing for COVID,” school principals wrote Eric Cato.

The school is on a previously scheduled Thanksgiving break for the entirety of next week, meaning in-person classes will resume on November 29.

A KIPP spokesman said the Washington Heights school is the only one on the network temporarily going remote due to health-related staffing issues.

“With the increase in COVID-19, RSV and influenza affecting numerous employees at this location, we have made the necessary decision to temporarily go into distancing to ensure we can maintain safe levels of staffing without disruption to learning. ‘ said the spokesman.

Katrice Bryson, the parent of a seventh grader at the school, said she received several notifications from teachers with COVID in quick succession last week and was not surprised that the school had to temporarily close its building.

Bryson said she had “no problems” with the school’s decision. “As an immunocompromised person, I’m afraid of what this virus can do to me alone.”

Still, even a temporary return to distance learning felt like “déjà vu” more than two-and-a-half years into the pandemic, she said.

The KIPP school’s closure comes as some children, parents and educators grapple with a citywide spike in respiratory illnesses, particularly among children.

The number of student and staff COVID-19 cases reported so far this month at the city’s public and charter schools is up slightly from last month, according to Department of Education data counted by group PRESS NYC, though reported cases are still lower than in September. and far lower than during last year’s winter surge powered by the omicron variant.

A total of 2,925 cases were counted last week, according to PRESS NYC’s chart, compared to 884 the same week last November. During the peak of the Omicron surge last winter, nearly 70,000 cases were counted in a week in January.

But it’s not just COVID-19 keeping kids and teachers away from class across the city.

City health officials have recorded a spike in influenza cases and hospitals have reported more children with respiratory illnesses filling cribs.

“This is the first winter since the pandemic began that you have to be concerned not only about COVID, but about other respiratory viruses that cause similar illnesses,” said Jay Varma, director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response and former Health Advisor Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The respiratory viruses have hit all age groups, but especially children, Varma said. The most likely explanation for the surge is that COVID-19 mitigation measures had the secondary effect of slowing the spread of influenza and RSV, keeping those viruses in check for much of the pandemic, and halting the short-term immunity associated with the exposure. he added. Now that those mitigation measures are largely relaxed, respiratory illnesses are coming back with a vengeance.

This can be a major headache for both families and schools.

More parents reported missing work because of childcare issues last month than at any other time during the pandemic, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures reported by the Washington Post.

So far, the overall citywide attendance of students and staff has not changed significantly.

Student attendance was around 88% on both Monday and Tuesday this week – similar to the annual average, and an Education Department spokesman said staff absences had remained stable since the start of the school year.

Several principals told Chalkbeat they’ve seen increased absences from students and staff in recent days, while others said they haven’t noticed big differences.

The Thanksgiving break for the city’s public schools begins next Thursday.

Some urban educators and parents are still cautiously approaching the winter months with memories of last year’s omicron surge in their minds. This spike in cases led to record high levels of student absenteeism and disrupted school operations.

Varma said it’s still unclear what course the three colliding viruses will take in the coming weeks and months, but said masking and ventilation are still the most effective tools for schools to prevent spread.

“If you can do it [high-quality masks] widely available, you can encourage people to use them without committing them,” he said. “For me, that’s the appropriate middle ground.”

Michael Elsen-Rooney is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York covering New York public schools. Contact Michael at melsen-rooney@chalkbeat.org.

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