Farmingville COVID cases prompt Ridgefield question session

Farmingville Elementary School in Ridgefield has an apparnet COVID-19 cluster that was up to 10 recent cases Friday.

Farmingville Elementary School in Ridgefield has an apparnet COVID-19 cluster that was up to 10 recent cases Friday.

Macklin Reid / Hearst Connecticut Media

RIDGEFIELD — The COVID-19 cluster at Farmingville Elementary School — now up to 10 recent cases — has prompted school officials to identify in-school exposure as a possible cause, recommend testing for people who have been in the Farmingville building, and plan a live question-and-answer session Monday at 1 p.m.

“There have been 10 cases of COVID-19 in the Farmingville Elementary School building in a short period of time,” Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva wrote in her weekly email to the school community Friday evening.

“... Several of these cases are potentially due to exposures at school,” she said.

“We are closing the FES building to staff and recommending that anybody who was in the FES building since Monday, December 7 closely monitor their symptoms and be tested for COVID-19,” Da Silva said.

All Ridgefield schools are on remote learning, with no in-school classes, Monday through Wednesday next week, leading into winter vacation. The schools are scheduled to reopen Jan. 4.

There were 107 Farmingville students in quarantine due to potential exposures, according to the COVID-19 data tracker on the school system’s website, as updated about 5 p.m. Friday.

Only one other school of the district’s 10 buildings had students in quarantine Friday — East Ridge Middle Schoool, with 63.

A total of 40 Ridgefield Public Schools staff members were in quarantine, and 32 of them were from Farmingville. The only other school with staff in quarantine was, again, East Ridge, with eight staffers out.

“Before returning to school on Jan. 4, there will be a review of mitigation practices, and communication will be sent to the RPS community with updated guidance and a reminder to stay home from school with even the slightest symptom of COVID-19,” Da Silva said Friday.

She said the school officials had discussed the situation with Ed Briggs, the town health director, and the school system’s medical adviser, Dr. James Ahern.

Question session

Monday’s live question-and-answer session is expected to include Da Silva, interim Farmingville Principal Traci Mayette and Aaron Crook, the school system’s COVID-19 liaison and head of nursing services.

“When a cluster of cases like this appears, understandably, it causes anxiety,” Crook said Friday in a communication to school district families. “We are here to answer your questions and appreciate your partnership in keeping our schools as safe as possible.

“I am available to speak with you by phone to answer any questions you may have; please email me to set up an appointment to talk. Please wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance.”

At the time of Friday afternoon’s email from Crook, the number of known Farmingville cases was still at nine.

“Nine FES community members have tested positive for COVID-19 since Tuesday, Dec. 1,” Crook wrote. “Five of which are staff members, and four are students.

“Two of the cases came from cohorts where there was a recent positive of COVID-19, which raises the possibility of in-school transmission within the FES building,” Crook said.

In the Friday email Crook outlined steps the school system is undertaking to address the situation.

 “ The FES building will remain closed to students and staff for 14 days starting today per Addendum 9 Guidance from the CT Department of Public Health and on the advice of Town of Ridgefield Health Department Director, Ed Briggs.

  “Custodial staff will do an enhanced cleaning of the entire building.

  “As an added precaution we are recommending that everyone who has spent time in the FES building since Dec 7th be tested for COVID-19.

  “We will be hosting a live question-and-answer session for FES families with myself, interim Principal Traci Mayette and Dr. Da Silva on Monday, December 21 at 1 p.m.”

The most recent Farmingville cases were announced in a communication from Crook, shared Friday night shortly after 9 in a email from Da Silva to the school community.

“Today we learned that two additional members of the Farmingville Elementary School community have tested positive for COVID-19,” Crook said.

“One individual was in the FES building while potentially infectious to others on Tuesday, December 15. The other was in the building while potentially infectious to others on Monday, December 14. In-school transmission cannot be ruled out in these cases.”

The COVID-19 data tracker on the school system’s website, as updated Friday about 5, said:

“RPS has had 72 known cases of COVID-19. Over time we have placed 1,246 students and staff in quarantine after potential exposures in school, on the bus, and at athletic events. Nine of these 1,246 have tested positive.”