Fountain, Widefield school districts report first COVID quarantines
Last updated 8/31/2020 at 10:01am
By Karin Hill
Both Widefield and Fountain school districts have already identified possible COVID-19 exposures since the school year began, prompting specific classes to be sent home for quarantine or isolation.
Various other schools in the Colorado Springs region that recently returned to in-person classes have experienced this, too, and officials say this is not a surprise and that they are prepared for it to happen from time to time.
In Widefield School District 3, a class at Pinello Elementary was sent home due to possible exposure sometime between Aug. 24, the first day, and Aug. 27.
"I can confirm that a fifth-grade class at Pinello has been sent home due to an individual showing COVID-19 like symptoms," WSD3 Communications Director Samantha Briggs said. "Our schools will only be contacting those individuals involved."
Briggs added that, per public health guidance, classmates or cohorts can return to class when one of the following have been met by the individual with symptoms:
- In a person with any Major symptoms, ALL symptoms have resolved in 24 hours; or
- In a person with only Minor symptoms, ALL symptoms have resolved within 48 hours; or
- Another diagnosis that explains their symptoms after consulting with a healthcare provider; or
- A negative COVID-19 PCR test
- OR 14 days have passed since the student or staff sent home was last in school
Fountain-Fort Carson School District has had two possible cases so far, including one staff member likely prior to classes returning and therefore no student contact, and a student at Weikel Elementary. Two of that school's classes were instructed to quarantine for 14 days.
Christy McGee, director of communications for FFC8, said the district is following the same procedures for quarantine, isolation and notification as WSD3.
"The district works closely with El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) regarding response to and the prevention of the spread of COVID-19," she said. "EPCPH and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) have issued guidance for schools and child care centers on addressing COVID-19 cases and outbreaks, which can be found online at https://covid19.colorado.gov/cases-and-outbreaks-child-care-schools and https://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/schools-child-care-and-online-learning.
Guidance from EPCPH includes notification of impacted persons. Some contact tracing and notification is conducted by EPCPH, and some of it will be done by the school.
Those individuals determined to be at risk of exposure to COVID-19, due to symptoms or a positive case, will be notified directly.
Messages will be sent to parents and staff in cohorts if isolation or quarantine of the cohort is required or recommended by EPCPH, or if there are any positive cases in the cohort. Schoolwide messages will be sent to staff and parents if there are any positive cases in the school or if a school is required or recommended to close. Districtwide messages will be sent to staff and parents if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the district that requires the entire district to close.
All positive case reporting is done in conjunction with EPCPH and reflected in their community database, which can be found at https://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/covid19data-dashboard
In all cases, the names of individuals within the district who are affected by COVID-19 will be kept confidential. The district has a legal obligation to uphold HIPPA privacy rules and will follow the policies of local and state health departments, McGee noted.
One parent whose child was sent home from Pinello this week said she understood the school's actions and the county guidelines, but she is taking it upon herself to notify as many other people as she can about the potential exposure.
"I would want to know if positive cases have been reported at my child's school, definitely," Tina Lopez-Axley said. "It would help me decide whether or not to keep my child at school in person or pull them for distance learning permanently for the rest of the school year."
McGee said officials are prepared to notify the entire school if the greater population is at risk. She emphasized that the model in place still allows for the majority of students to return to school if the specific class affected is isolated. She also encouraged parents to do whatever they can to minimize spread to other students and staff by keeping kids home if they are not feeling well.
In related news, overall COVID-19 numbers for the area have been low enough that FFC8 has decided to move its return date for secondary up a week. Classes were expected to return in person on Sept. 8 initially, then moved back to Sept. 15, but now are back at the Sept. 8 date. Grades 6-12 will transition from online to in-person class then.