RIDGEFIELD - COVID-19, or a suspected case of it, has now turned up in Ridgefield’s elementary schools, the first at Branchville Elementary School.

An announcement Thursday morning, Oct. 29, said that the potential COVID-19 case had just come to light, and some students were being sent home from Branchville School. But because the school was already practicing “effective co-horting” not all students are being sent home, the announcement said.

On Monday after a flurry of cases in the middle schools over the weekend, Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva had put the two middle schools and high schools on two weeks “temporary remote learning” with no in-school classes, while moving Ridgefield’s six elementary schools back to cohorting, with only half the students being in a building at one time.

Da Silva announced the Branchville case in an email to students’ families and staff Thursday morning. She forwarded a communication from Aaron Crook, the Ridgefield Schools’ COVID-19 Health and Safety Compliance Liaison and Coordinator of Nursing Services.

“Because of effective cohorting at the elementary school level, we do not need to dismiss the entire school today. BES will remain open,” Da Silva wrote.

Changes at all levels of the school system were announced Monday, following from a decision to move the schools from a COVID-19 “low risk model” to a “moderate risk model.” That decision was made Monday following a weekend with four different cases coming to light at the two middle schools.

Quarantined

On Tuesday Da Silva reviewed recent cases of positive tests among the school community that had resulted in 194 students and 29 staff being asked to quarantine — a number that will increase as a result of the Branchville case.

In the wake of an exposure dating back to Oct. 22, 43 students and seven staff were told to quarantine; from a case on Oct. 20, 34 students and eight staff; from Oct. 19 and 20 cases, 58 students and nine staff; after an Oct. 13 exposure at Ridgefield High School, 35 students and four staff; earlier that week, a high school sports team had 15 students exposed and sent into quarantine; and an Oct. 17 case at East Ridge Middle School sent nine students and one staff member into quarantine.

Da Silva said Wednesday that most of the students in quarantine had been tested and were negative for COVID-19.

“Today, our school nurses made phone calls to all of the individuals at ERMS, SRMS, and RHS who were asked to quarantine,” she wrote in an email to families Wednesday. “The vast majority of these individuals were tested for COVID-19, and all of those who were tested received negative result.”

Da Silva had also discussed the schools’ decision to close the middle and high schools and move the elementary schools to operations under the “moderate risk” model.

“As you know, last weekend (Saturday and Sunday) we learned of four new positive COVID-19 cases in a condensed period of time. These cases had no connection to each other and could not be traced back to a known source. In a situation like this, the biggest public health concern is whether it is the beginning of an outbreak,” Da Silva said.

“In addition, the Fairfield County COVID-19 prevalence rate increased to 9 new cases per day per 100,000 population on a 14-day rolling average last Friday, and there was a cluster of additional cases in the Town of Ridgefield over the last 7 days.

She said that after discussions with Ed Briggs, the town health director, and Dr. James Ahern, the school system’s medical advisor, school officials had “collaboratively agreed that temporarily closing grades 6-12 and moving to a hybrid model for grades PreK-5 was necessary.”