ITHACA, N.Y. –– Ithaca High School and Cayuga Heights Elementary School will turn to virtual learning for the remainder of the week after three Ithaca High School students tested positive for the coronavirus.

The announcement was made in a district-wide email on Wednesday by Dr. Luvelle Brown, Ithaca City School District’s superintendent, in reaction to the Tompkins County Health Department’s contact investigation. The district hopes to reopen the two schools for in-person learning again on Monday, Oct. 26.

Though the email from Brown does not mention any positive cases in the Cayuga Heights Elementary community, the school is being closed out of an abundance of caution.

“We appreciate the sensitivity around any identifiable cases since in-person instruction has resumed,” Brown said. “We are committed to communicating clearly and maintaining the confidentiality of individuals who test positive, as required by federal and state privacy laws. Whenever there is a confirmed case, schools must ensure information is released in a manner that does not allow persons in our school community to be identified.”

Brown continued that unless the Tompkins County Health Department contacts someone, or they have had “close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, (closer than six feet for more than 10 minutes at a time),” there is no required quarantine or testing process per the state’s Department of Health guidance.

“If or when more cases are confirmed, the TCHD will continue to communicate with anyone who needs to be notified, and we will immediately notify our school community,” Brown concluded. “Thank you for all you are doing in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. I wish you safety and strength.”

This is the first time the school district has had to switch to virtual learning since opening for in-person classes on Oct. 5. Before that, the district had held virtual classes beginning on Sept. 13. Several schools in Tompkins County have recently had to make similar, temporary adjustments, including in Groton, Lansing and Dryden school districts.

The positive tests at IHS also come as the wider community experiences a jump in cases, with 16 positives announced in the latest data update from TCHD.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com