It appeared the Cuba School District had gotten through its first week of classes without a positive case of COVID-19 when Superintendent Jon Earnhart announced Friday the district had zero positive cases. By Saturday, however, that had changed.
In a letter to parents that went out Saturday afternoon, Earnhart announced the district had received notice that a staff member who had been in quarantine since Wednesday, August 26, had tested positive for COVID-19.
“In accordance with guidelines from the Crawford County Health Department, I have quarantined this person and anyone who is considered to have been in direct contact with them,” Earnhart said. A total of 17 individuals were quarantined as a direct result of the positive test.
On Friday, Earnhart issued the first of what will be a weekly update to parents and staff members regarding the effects of COVID-19 on the district. Each update will include the number of staff members and students who have tested positive or are in quarantine.
As of Friday, the district had zero positive cases, but Earnhart did report 16 individuals, including 15 students and the one staff member who later tested positive, were in quarantine. All were in quarantine because they had direct contact with someone outside of school who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Those quarantined included three sets of siblings who were quarantined due to cases in their family.
“We would like to thank our parents for their honesty and notifying us of direct exposures, quarantines, and potential cases,” Earnhart said Friday. “It is only through open and honest communication that we will be able to appropriately respond to situations and safely keep our students and staff in the buildings.”
In Saturday’s announcement, Earnhart said the Crawford County Health Department would make contact with all individuals who have been identified as having close contact (within six feet for at least 15 minutes) with the teacher who tested positive. Anyone who has been at the school who is not contacted by the Health Department should consider that they are not at high risk of getting COVID-19 as a result of the positive case.
“Anytime we have to quarantine a student or staff member, they automatically switch to the virtual format,” said Earnhart. “This allows our teachers to still be able to teach and student to be able to learn.”
After Saturday’s announcement, the school district had a total of 33 students and one teacher in quarantine, with just the one positive test result. Based on those numbers, the district will continue to operate at its Level 2 Daily Mode Indicator, which allows for full in-person learning for those who chose that option.
In regards to a potential district wide closure should COVID-19 cases increase, Earnhart said the district would move to Level 4 (virtual learning only) when the district has two percent positive cases (10 in one building or 25 in the district) or 20 percent quarantined (90 in one building or 260 in the district), or anytime the district sees an increase in positive cases over the course of three consecutive days. Virtual only learning could last just one day or could go on for multiple weeks based on the continuing circumstances.
“The district is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff,” said Earnhart. “It is vital that we work together to ensure situations are handled appropriately.”
As for the rest of last week, Earnhart was happy with how the 2020-21 school year got underway.
“All things considered, we had a great first week of school,” said Earnhart. “The first day was obviously a little different as we were communicating and implementing new processes and procedures. Our students and staff have done a great job adapting to those and have been extremely compliant and understanding. Once students had a chance to see and practice the new processes and protocols, they have all gone really well. I have been extremely proud of our staff and students. Everyone understands that these new protocols are to allow us to remain safely in school as long as possible.”
Earnhart said the district did have a “few hiccups” with its virtual students but admitted a lot of it was the school’s fault.
“Zoom was down for the entire day Monday,” he said. “Our learning management systems—CANVAS at the middle and high schools and ONE DRIVE at the elementary—have had some tech issues, probably due to the increased number of school districts that are using them.”
The district also had some password/login issues that it was able to address and correct in house.
“For the most part, we had most of the tech issues cleaned up midweek,” said Earnhart. “We expect this week to go much smoother on the virtual side of school.”
Earnhart did note that fewer students rode the buses to school last week but is unsure if that will continue or it was just because that typically happens at the start of the year.
“I can’t really complain about how things are going, based on our current circumstances,” said Earnhart.” I feel everyone is doing their best to comply with procedures and protocols and are putting forth a tremendous effort to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Earnhart reiterated Monday that he is extremely grateful to parents and staff who have contacted the district and been honest about the need to quarantine.
“The Crawford County Health Department has been great to work with and provided a great deal of guidance,” said Earnhart. “I think our staff deserves a ton of credit for all of their efforts. Not only are they working hard to implement new protocols, they are working extremely hard to educate our kids both in class and online. I am extremely proud of our staff, their efforts and their attitude. Their jobs are more difficult now than they have ever been, and they have responded remarkably.”