On Monday, October 26th, Parents of Regional School District 13 students were notified of increases in COVID-19 cases in the schools of Coginchaug Regional High School, Strong Middle School, and Brewster Elementary. 


A day before, Parents were informed of two more cases in Memorial Middle School and as well as Strong. 


The case at Memorial Middle School prompted all fifth graders to stay home and learn remotely. While the case at Strong Middle School has only required a few students to quarantine. 


At 3:03 PM, both Coginchaug and Strong schools reported another positive case,  moved to remote learning for Tuesday, October 26th, and quarantined a fraction of Strong students until November 5th.  


The second case at Brewster Elementary was found after a result of contract tracing.  


Not only have more cases been reported in school, but there has also been an increase in cases throughout the Town of Durham and the State of Connecticut. 


On Thursday, October 22nd, Durham First Selectman, Laura Francis (R) updated residents on the rise of COVID-19 cases locally, stating: “The Town of Durham, the State of Connecticut and many other states are experiencing a rise in the number of COVID19 cases. Despite our residents’ best efforts to prevent infection, the virus has made its presence known over the last two weeks, with more than 10 cases being identified in Durham.” 


On Tuesday, October 27th, RSD 13 announced Coginchaug students would stay in remote learning for October 28th, while also revealing 120 calls were made to the parents of students who were possibly exposed to the virus. 


Although both RSD 13 and the Town of Durham have addressed an increase in the number of cases, they have not specified as to why cases are rising. 


Devils’ Advocate News Reporter, Thomas Peters took to social media asking Coginchaug students why they believe cases have risen? 


Coginchaug Senior and Girls Cross Country Captain, C.J. St. John stated: “I’m the captain of the Cross Country team and I have to constantly remind my girls to socially distance and I have to remind myself too─it’s actually really hard to keep track of because I want my teammates to have a normal fun season, but it’s got to be different to be safe.” 


Coginchaug Junior Morgan Messner stated: “From what I observed at Coginchaug, I can’t speak for other schools, but here it seems that the rules that were once more strictly applied have gotten looser as time goes on. Kids are taking off their masks outside when they’re not far enough apart, some don’t sanitize their hands frequently enough.” Ms. Messner continued to express her concern for the lack of compliance with school guidelines stating: “I’ve seen that people are just starting to care less.” Ms. Messner also witnessed students not following proper lunch protocol. “I was outside today for lunch and saw that people were sitting in groups, far too close together,” says Messner. 


Students like Coginchaug Senior Greg Lenoce believed the reasons rates have risen is due to the full in-person model. “It was a horrible idea and that’s why I switched to cohort C. I wouldn’t even consider in-person full time until at least December.” Mr. Lenoce believed the administration rushed the full in-person model too early and believed students should still be in the hybrid model. “They rushed and didn’t think and we’re all paying for it,” said Mr. Lenoce. 


Cade Marosz, a Coginchaug Senior said he was disappointed and frustrated with the district’s response to the pandemic saying: “I think the decision to go full in person was rushed and far too early.”


Coginchaug Senior Ava Meliso believes the school is taking the proper steps to mitigate the virus as much as possible, all while ensuring quality education. “I believe that the district is trying their best to keep us learning and making school feel somewhat normal for us again.” Ms. Meliso also suggested the school should rethink the full in-person model.  “With that being said, as cases within our school communities rise, I feel less safe being in school full time.” 


Nick Planeta, a Coginchaug Senior said the Hybrid model was working. “I think we were doing fine with hybrid, and we were making our best attempt to be in school that way, but full in-person learning this quick might be too much too fast.”  


After receiving student input, we decided to contact the administration to see what they had to say as to why the cases have been rising.  


We emailed Coginchaug Principle Brian Falcone for a comment on the rise, unfortunately, he did not respond in time before our release. 


We also emailed RSD 13 Superintendent Kathryn Y. Serino who did respond. Dr. Serino explained the processes and procedures the district executed while responding to the COVID-19 cases. “The contact tracing process after we learn of a positive case is very comprehensive and very time-consuming. When we receive notification of a positive case, we are required to do a 48 hour ‘look back’” 


The district considers close contact as anyone who was within six feet of the positive case for 15 minutes or longer.


What is important to note is the Health Director for RSD 13 considers anyone who is in the same classroom with an infected individual to be close contact, regardless if they are six feet apart.  


We also asked Dr. Serino whether or not the claims going around about the special band masks could have caused the increase in cases. Dr. Serino explained the masks were approved by the State Department of Education, however, did not suggest the band class was the main reason for the exposure. 


Fortunately, Dr. Serino suggested that the virus is not spreading throughout the school; rather, the reason for the case increases has to do with after school activities disassociated with the district that do not follow the same safety protocols. 


Dr. Serino said she was informed by the Department of Public Health that schools with populations up to 1,000 students are the safest places to be, as school buildings are always adhering to health and safety protocols.


Dr. Serino believes the district is on the right path. “Everything we are doing in RSD 13 is making a difference.”