Covid-19 exposure leads to quarantined class
February 25, 2021
Over the past couple weeks, some of the new covid-19 cases in Wahkiakum County have had a connection or limited connection to the Wahkiakum School District. According to the press releases from Wahkiakum Health and Human Services, those people are in self-quarantine.
For one reason or another, those cases, which didn’t appear to have any connection to each other, found a strange convergence in the fifth grade classroom. It also meant that more than one person in the two fifth grade classrooms was at risk for covid-19 after having either direct contact with any one of the various people who had recently tested positive or they had the potential to be a secondary contact.
“It’s complicated,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said.
The district initially sent home any person who was considered a primary contact for a 14 day quarantine. However, with so much potential risk coming from more than one direction, they decided to err on the side of caution, and made a decision they knew from day one they might have to make in order to protect students and their families, as well as the larger community.
They decided to send the entire fifth grade home to work remotely. The fifth grade is comprised of 28 students, separated into two cohorts of 14. The students went home last week and will continue to work from home for 10 days. The few other students in the district who were related, and therefore at risk, were sent home as well.
“Some of it was circumstantial and coincidental but it was the best thing to do,” Freeman said. “I have to look every parent, every kid, every staff member in the eye and say ‘We’re safe.’”
“We want to be 100 percent assured,” Freeman said. “The proof in the pudding is starting this Thursday or Friday. If none of them test positive, then we know we did something right.”
There are several protocols in place to keep Wahkiakum students in the classroom. Temperature taking, wearing masks, washing hands, six foot distancing and cohorts like these mean that if something like this happens, the rest of the school can
continue, largely unaffected, while the district contains a population that may be at risk.
Wahkiakum students have had the option to be in the classroom since school started in September. Kindergarten through third grade have been in the classroom four days a week, while everyone else was adhering to a hybrid schedule which put half of them in the classroom two days a week, and the other half in the classroom the two other days. Friday was a remote day for everyone.
When the new semester started about a month ago, the district decided to try and bring every student back to school four days a week. Except for the eighth grade class, which was too big, and some of the high school, they have been successful in doing so.
“The procedures work,” Freeman added. “To this date, we have not had student to student, student to staff, or staff to student transmission. We have about 100 cases in the county now. Roughly 20 of them have been kids. If we sent 100 kids over to the park for seven hours, four days a week, I have to believe they would have covid transmission over there. But we don’t have it here at the school. We haven’t had the flu this year, we haven’t had the strep throat, we haven’t had the pink eye, or the lice problems. The measures work. Knock on wood, we will have all the kids back next week.”
This is the first time an entire class or cohort has been sent home, but it isn’t the first time that kids have been excluded when they weren’t feeling well.
“We’ve been really aggressive and parents have been really good about calling and saying my kid hasn’t been feeling well and I’m not sending him today,” Freeman said. “We’ve helped get testing done, and the health department has been excellent getting people set up. It’s better to have one kid miss one or two days and get a test.”
Or have them at home, following a positive result.
Teachers and staff are held to the same standard, and must self-report, have their temperature checked at the door, wash their hands, wear a mask, and six foot distance as well.
Thanks to the health department, all of the teachers who wanted a vaccination have received one.