As schools reopened following holiday break, absences due to COVID-19 followed

A spike in COVID cases fueled by the omicron variant has caused widespread absences in North Fork schools in the return from winter break last week.

This is against the backdrop of a 24.1% positivity rate in Suffolk County as of Monday, according to the New York State Department of Health. 

The numbers detailed below are a roundup of the school districts on the North Fork and their current positivity rate. The data was gathered from the New York State Department of Health COVID Report Card detailing the positive case rate from the past seven days, from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9.


• Cutchogue East Elementary School: 10 students, 10 teachers and four staff members — totaling 24 — have tested positive out of 483 students, 65 teachers and 22 staff members.

• Mattituck Junior-Senior High School: 24 students, eight teachers and three staff members — totaling 35 — have tested positive out of 589 students, 69 teachers and 17 staff members.

“It’s been a challenging return from the holiday last week was a tough week,” district superintendent Shawn Petretti said. “But our faculty and staff have stepped up in regards to contact tracing and attendance wise; really the only people that we were missing on staff, for the most part, were those that were quarantined, everyone else is coming to work and pulling together to cover classes and do what needs to be done to keep our schools open.”


• Southold Elementary School: 18 students, three teachers and one staff member — totaling 22 — have tested positive out of 319 students, 46 teachers and 23 staff members.

• Southold Junior-Senior High School: 16 students, four teachers and two staff members — totaling 12 — have tested positive out of 409 students, 46 teachers and 36 staff members.

The district also offered COVID-19 testing kits provided by the state and distributed them last Wednesday and Thursday at the district auditorium.

Dr. Anthony Mauro, district superintendent, said it seemed like the number of absences were already starting to get better and he expects to see the positivity rates in schools go down soon.

“Schools are the safest places to be,” Mr. Mauro said. “What’s going to happen over the next few weeks is that our numbers are going to get better because kids are back in school.”


• Greenport Elementary School: 10 students, six teachers and one staff member — totaling 17 — have tested positive out of 343 students, 31 teachers and 37 staff members.

• Greenport High School: 24 students and five teachers — totaling 29 — have tested positive out of 349 students, 27 teachers and 12 staff members.

District superintendent Marlon Small was not immediately available for an interview.


• Aquebogue Elementary School: Six students, three teachers and one staff member — totaling 10 — have tested positive out of 460 students, 42 teachers and 48 staff members. 

• Phillips Avenue Elementary School: 22 students and three teachers — totaling 25 — have tested positive out of 547 students, 40 teachers and 41 staff members. 

• Pulaski Street Elementary School: According to principal Rodney Parrish, an input error caused the health department to report that 798 students, 59 teachers and 45 staff members, a total of 902 people, tested positive at the school. The school has a total enrollment of 770 students, with 57 teachers and 44 staff members.

On the district’s COVID dashboard, available on the district’s website, there were 38 positive cases from Jan. 3 to Jan. 10 in the elementary school. Information on how many of those cases are students, teachers or staff was not available. 

• Riley Avenue Elementary School: Three students and three teachers — totaling six — have tested positive out of 455 students, 38 teachers and 49 staff members.

• Riverhead Middle School: 22 students, 15 teachers and 20 staff members — totaling 57 — have tested positive out of 838 students, 59 teachers and 50 staff members.

• Riverhead High School: 55 students, five teachers and six staff members — totaling 66 — have tested positive out of 1,965 students, 118 teachers and 101 staff members.

• Roanoke Avenue Elementary School: 23 students and four teachers — totaling 27 — have tested positive out of 406 students, 30 teachers and 29 staff members.

“While we are hoping to remain in person for all of our buildings, we may have to pivot to remote learning at some point for a building or buildings,” district superintendent Augustine Tornatore said in an email to Times Review Media Group about contingency plans the district is considering.

The district has asked parents interested in state-provided testing kits to fill out a survey.

“Additional information regarding pick up of COVID test kits will be shared later this week,” the district announced on its Twitter account, attaching a link to the survey.

Shoreham-Wading River

• Albert G. Prodell Middle School: 19 students, seven teachers and five staff members — totaling 31 — have tested positive out of 456 enrolled students, 57 teachers and 58 staff members.

• Miller Avenue School: 11 students, four teachers and seven staff members — totaling 22 — have tested positive out of 406 enrolled students, 46 teachers and 54 staff members.

• Shoreham-Wading River High School: 46 students, three teachers and 14 staff members — totaling 63 — have tested positive out of 720 enrolled students, 83 teachers and 71 staff members.

• Wading River School: 13 students, seven teachers and four staff members — totaling 24 — have tested positive out of 444 enrolled students, 49 teachers and 51 staff members.

Shoreham Wading River’s Board of Education met virtually last Wednesday instead of meeting in person, because some trustees and administration members were quarantining, according to board president Katie Andersen.

During the meeting, the Board of Education approved a new “test-to-stay” program for the district. It is a strategy that allows asymptomatic unvaccinated school-based close contacts — students, teachers and staff — to avoid school exclusion through a three-time testing regimen spread out through seven days, according to the New York State Department of Health.

The district sent out an email and robocall reminding parents about state-provided testing kits. Families could pick up kits in order of last name either at Miller Avenue or Shoreham-Wading River High School last Thursday afternoon.

At the board meeting, district superintendent Gerard Poole thanked the staff for helping to keep schools open and assured community members that everyone is doing their part to keep the schools operational.

“We have been very fortunate to keep our schools open. I give a lot of credit to our teachers, support staff, administrators and principals who are juggling everything,” Mr. Poole said. “Despite those challenges, we are all hands on deck and are using intervention service providers, special area teachers and administration at times, to provide safe, supervised environments for all students in order to avoid closures.”