Summit School District to start publicly reporting quarantines |

Summit School District to start publicly reporting quarantines

A student air high-fives Silverthorne Elementary Assistant Principal Ann-Mari Westerhoff on the first day of school Thursday, Aug. 27.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

FRISCO  — As a result of changing guidance from the state and a push from parents and community members, the Summit School District has changed the way it will report quarantines among cohorts.

At a school board meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15, Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. updated the public on changes to the district’s novel coronavirus policies. Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16, the district will start reporting information about quarantines on a weekly basis through its COVID-19 webpage.

Parents and families have been critical of the district’s initial decision to not publicly report which cohorts are in quarantine.

“Every Friday, as a district, we will be posting information on our district website regarding those quarantines so that everyone has the information they need to have to make some life decisions and choices,” Smith said at the meeting. 

In addition to the Friday update, schools will send out weekly notifications to families about quarantines within their buildings. 

While the district does plan to report information about the quarantines, it won’t be very specific. According to a letter sent to parents at the school district, the weekly updates will not include the following information:

  • If a staff member or student initiated the quarantine
  • The specific cohorts or classes that are quarantine
  • The grades that are quarantined
  • The duration of the quarantine
  • The number of cohorts impacted by the quarantine 
  • The names of teachers or students impacted by the quarantine

In the letter, Smith wrote that the school is dedicated to balancing “our responsibility by law to protect the confidentiality and identity of those affected by public health quarantine and isolation orders.”

The district is not changing how it will report outbreaks or inform families if their child is required to quarantine. Outbreaks within the schools will continue to be reported through both Summit County Public Health and the district. So far, the district has had one outbreak of two cases among staff members at Summit Middle School.

Families with students who are in quarantine will be notified via a letter from their school. The district had provided a sample of what that letter looks like on its website.

The district has also adopted new guidance issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which updates the process for quarantining and isolating students.

According to the guidance, if a student experiences new loss of taste or smell — which is now considered a “critical symptom” — they should be immediately isolated for 10 days. For counties in safer-at-home Level 2, like Summit County, students with only minor symptoms that resolve within 48 hours can return to school without a negative COVID-19 test. 

Students with minor symptoms that last longer than 48 hours or major symptoms of the virus will need a negative COVID-19 test to return to school. The guidance also provides information on how districts should approach quarantining cohorts. 

A cohort is quarantined if any individual has any major symptom of the virus or two or more minor symptoms. When that happens, the sick person will be removed from in-person learning along with their entire cohort. The cohort will return to in-person learning if the sick person has a negative COVID-19 test within four days of symptom onset or if the symptoms go away within 48 hours. 

If either of those scenarios don’t happen, the students in the cohort will return to in-person learning 14 days from their last exposure to the sick person. 

The state’s guidance will be updated every month. At the school board meeting, Smith said patience is key as public health information changes rapidly. 

“We continue to try to provide information that is timely, information that’s concise, information that is accurate, information that provides all the necessary information so that the community knows what to do,” he said.

Are your symptoms major?

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment categorizes symptoms to help contact tracers do their job.

Critical Symptoms:

  • New loss of taste or smell

Major Symptoms:

  • Feeling feverish, having chills or a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher
  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Minor Symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose or congestion
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidance, via Summit County Contact Tracing Team Manager Lauren Gilbert.

At a county Board of Health meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said the new guidance better matches how officials do contact tracing outside of the schools. 

“It is a great step forward because it allows us to do what we typically do in contact tracing, which is really focus on those that are most meeting that close contact definition of a positive case, somebody who’s within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes at a time,” Wineland said. 

Wineland said the new guidance doesn’t necessarily mean the district will have fewer cohorts in quarantine, however, because a shortage of staff in schools requires students to go online when a person becomes sick within a cohort.

“It does mean that we are really going to dive in and focus mostly on those close contacts, not necessarily the entire cohort for contact tracing,” she said.

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