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23 students, staff hit by COVID-19: None related to school transmission

Shelter Island School officials reported 23 people — 17 students and six staff members — tested positive for COVID-19 between June 1 and June 13.

In line with instructions from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, none resulted in the need to close the school since in each case the infected individuals had no contact with others in the building.

Nurse Mary Kanarvogel has been starting her days at 7 a.m. testing students and staff who have been exposed to the virus outside the school.

A recent field trip to participate in the Long Island Music Festival was affected by multiple absences, Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., said. There were students scheduled for solos who were ill and other students filled in. The good news is those who participated returned with a handsome Award of Excellence.

The school has had an excellent record of very few days when the building had to be closed and teaching done virtually since COVID-19 began to flare on the Island in March 2020. The latest variants, while being less serious, have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control as more easily communicable than the original strain.

School safety: Without revealing many steps for security reasons school officials have already implemented a tightened program to train staff and students to respond to any incidence of violence, Mr. Doelger said. He noted the close relationship school officials have with the Shelter Island Police Department. There are regular lockdown drills and analysis of those drills with police to identify areas of vulnerability.

The presentation to the Board of Education Monday night is to be posted to the school’s website this week.

Educational advancements: Students Sophie Clark, Jose Fausto and James Durran outlined projects they’ve been working on in teacher Dan Williams’ science lab. First-year high school students in the lab tackle basic projects aimed at teaching them how to conduct research while projects become increasingly more sophisticated each year. Mr. Fausto’s project was with the DNA of ants. Mr. Durran dealt with “riboswitches” that regulate RNA turning on or off in response to environmental changes and potential gene development. For Ms. Clark, it’s a study about Alzheimer’s.

Seal of Civic Readiness: Social studies teacher Sean Brennan outlined a plan to provide for students to graduate with diplomas bearing a “Seal of Civic Readiness.” To earn the seal, students must amass a minimum of six points — at least two earned for demonstrating civic knowledge and two from civic participation. He said Island students generally have three to four points already based on what they’re doing in civics classes and projects through community service efforts the district has always encouraged.

Good bye and good luck: It’s not unusual for staffers to leave the Island for other jobs, but few received the accolades given to guidance counselor Martha Tuthill, who is leaving to be a director of counseling in another district. Mr. Doelger said Ms. Tuthill’s impact in the years she’s worked on Shelter Island have been significant, and while she’ll be missed, he applauded what amounts to a major promotion. He told the Board of a student who wasn’t planning to go to college and even lacked the ability to travel to visit a college. Ms. Tuthill drove the student to a campus and not only helped engineer the student’s acceptance to the school, but secured some financial aid. Board member Kathy Lynch credited Ms. Tuthill with having a strong impact on her children and called her “just amazing.”

Ms. Tuthill will continue her work in the district through July 7.