As part of this school’s plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the administrative team set up a protocol for contact tracing in correspondence with the State Department of Health and CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines.
According to Associate Principal Karen McDaniel, the administration follows the protocol after a student has tested positive.
McDaniel said, “We have to contact trace 48 hours before the onset of symptoms of the last day that the student was in school.”
For individuals with symptoms, the administration contact traces two days prior to the onset of symptoms. However, if the student tests positive but is asymptomatic, the administration contact traces two days prior to their test.
According to Assistant Principal Maureen Borto, the administration finds who students were direct contacts of within those 48 hours while they were at school.
Borto said, “We’re contact tracing from when a student leaves their house to get to school to once a student gets home from school.”
This includes contacting all of the student’s teachers to see who the student was in contact with. The administration also finds who the student was close to en route and from school. Additionally, this includes all those people the student was within six feet of for at least 15 minutes at clubs and sports after school.
According to McDaniel, students who have been in direct contact but have not been tested for COVID-19 or have been tested and received a negative result must be quarantined for 14 days. If a student gets tested and the result is positive, they would need to quarantine for 10 days, only returning to school once they have been symptom-free for 72 hours.
McDaniel said, “(Even) if you were just exposed, it is (still) a 14-day (quarantine) because we have to give (COVID-19) a little more time to manifest itself in the body.”
According to Borto, a person is considered to be a direct contact after they have been close to someone who has tested positive for longer than 15 minutes.
“Less than six feet for more than 15 minutes is the threshold for that contact,” Borto said. “The direct contacts are then the people you would have to contact to quarantine.”
A person is also considered to be in direct contact even if they were wearing a mask. However, according to administrators, students are not considered to be in direct contact if they used the same desk at a different time as an individual who tested positive. Additionally, the district follows the same protocol for teachers and other staff members.
According to McDaniel, the protocol for contract tracing has changed since the initial return-to-school guidelines.
McDaniel said, “The first couple of days of school because we thought we had to stay within a three-to-six feet guideline, because that’s what they told us from the department of health at that point. We had several students that had to be quarantined because the desks weren’t six feet (apart at that time).”
When administrators heard this information, staff members changed seating arrangements in cafeterias and classrooms to ensure the seats were properly socially distanced.
Student body president Julia Heath said, “Honestly, as far as contact tracing goes, I think the school’s doing a pretty good job of it.”
According to Borto, although the administration is actively contact tracing, much of the process still relies on student responsibility.
Borto said, “Our district set up a hotline for any (COVID-19)-related absences so our parents can call the hotline and just report if their student has tested positive…it’s the parent and the student talking.”