Greater Jasper shares COVID-19 report

Herald file photo by Marlena Sloss
School Social Worker Melanie Krueger, left, checks the temperature of Jasper Elementary School kindergartner Emmett Dubon as his father, William, holds him for support outside the school in Jasper on the first day of school on Aug. 12, 2020. Parents are not allowed inside the school this year due to COVID-19 precautions, so William parted with Emmett at the temperature check.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

JASPER — Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools has had 1,911 students and 78 staff members who were quarantined during the first semester of school because of exposure to COVID-19.

Of those, 45 students and seven staff members tested positive.

The district sent that information out to parents last week along with other information it has tracked about COVID-19 at the district’s schools.

Greater Jasper sent out the report to make sure parents had accurate information, said Tracy Lorey, district superintendent.

“We decided to send that data out because mostly we just hear lots of misconceptions about the impact of actually operating school and keeping it open,” she said. “We wanted to assure parents that we're using that database approach and that the things that we've put in place to ensure student safety and staff safety appear to be working well.”

The report, which parents received as an email, included a summary of statistics and pertained to the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.

This is the first report the district has sent to parents, Lorey said.

“It was the first time we had trackable data since COVID,” she said, “The impacts of that on schooling really didn't come into play until this first semester of our school year.”

The 45 students who tested positive during the first semester represented 2.4% of the total quarantined; 97.6% of quarantined students did not become ill with COVID-19 and returned to school. Of those who tested positive, half of the cases were a result of an external exposure, which is exposure to someone outside of the school setting. Half were linked to internal exposure, which is close contact of a person within the school setting.

Seven of the 78 quarantined staff members tested positive for COVID. The majority of the staff members quarantined, 71 people, did not become ill with COVID-19 and returned to school.

Of the seven who did test positive, two were from close contacts to another staff member and five were close contacts to an external exposure.

Of the 78 staff members who were quarantined, 20 were the result of internal exposure, 18 with another staff member and two related to a student. The other 40 were due to external exposure, or exposure outside the school setting.

The total number of students and staff members who were quarantined includes students and staff members who may have been quarantined more than once.

As far as athletics, “Data gathered in regard to student-athletes being affected by COVID-19 does NOT show evidence of spread among our athletic teams nor the events,” according to the report. “Teams have been affected by close contacts within the school building throughout the year, however, a majority of those students being quarantined are not testing positive for the virus.”

Officials go on to explain their process for handling events.

“All events are limited to participants (team, coaches, officials) and parents/siblings,” according to the report. “We have quarantined or had intermittent pauses to activities as expected. The protocols in place to keep students in school and participating in extracurricular activities continue to be followed.”

The report also included a summary:

• Protocols such as face coverings, cleaning/sanitizing, assigned seating, limited attendance at events, etc. are effective tools to manage school operations.

• The majority of students and staff required to quarantine never contract COVID-19.

• Individuals identified as close contacts have minimal chance of developing COVID-19.

• Extra-curricular activities and events are not causing spread of COVID-19 among teams, coaches, officials or parents.

• Case numbers and quarantines are higher at the high school level.

• There is very minimal spread of COVID-19 among students and staff.

• There is no documented spread of COVID-19 from students to staff.

The report concluded with the district’s assurance that it will continue to collaborate with the Indiana State Department of Health and the Dubois County Health Department and monitor school data to make decisions on how the schools will operate.

“As a school system, we can mitigate but not eliminate exposure,” officials wrote in the report. “We rely on everyone to follow the guidelines so students can remain learning in-person.”

Those guidelines, outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include wearing a mask over your nose and mouth, staying 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated places, washing your hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. The CDC also advises monitoring for symptoms like fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. More information can be found at the CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov.

“There will be times when students will be required to isolate or quarantine,” officials wrote in the report. “There will be intermittent shifts to virtual learning as our school data dictates. Our staff is working diligently to provide continuity of instruction during these times.”




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