Devine ISD is quarantining a 2nd grade elementary classroom after multiple people in the class tested positive. The district was notified of the first positive result on Friday, February 5th. The district stated they cannot legally disclose how many positive cases are in that class. However, active cases at the elementary have risen from 6 last Friday to 11 active cases this Monday.
The parent of a second grader raised concerns, after she heard about the developing situation over the weekend from a friend.
“My daughter is 8 years old, and is an asthma patient. I want to know why I wasn’t notified before school on Monday,” stated Crystal Rodriguez. I am not asking for names. I just want to be notified if someone in my child’s classroom tests positive.”
We also spoke to Superintendent Todd Grandjean who explained the timing and legal procedures sometimes make it difficult. Being in the same class doesn’t necessarily make you a close contact, by the CDC’s definition, he explained.
“A parent is not going to be notified of someone testing positive in your child’s class unless you are a close contact. Your child might sit on the complete opposite side of the class. We cannot notify everyone in the class because it is too easily identifiable to determine who is absent. We also cannot tell you if your student’s teacher is positive, for example, because that’s also identifiable,” Grandjean said.
Grandjean stated it wasn’t confirmed that multiple cases were positive in the same classroom until Monday.
“On Monday, when we got confirmation of several positives in the same classroom we decided it would be prudent to have everyone in the class tested, and to quarantine the whole class. The siblings of the known positive students were also quarantined,” said Superintendent Grandjean. “I cannot tell you how many students in that class tested positive.”
“The rapid tests we have only take 15 minutes, but then the paperwork process begins. We have to look at all of the facts and determine who is actually a close contact. It can take up to 24 hours to notify all of the close contacts of each student, and longer if it falls on a weekend,” Grandjean said.
As far as who’s a close contact, “it varies case to case and campus to campus. Mitigating factors such as dividers, shields, and ventilation in the area are all factors. At the elementary, intermediate, and middle school, we use shields everywhere, whereas at the high school the students can look over the top of shields. They also have more interaction at the high school. When we get a positive case we look at all of that, including seating charts to determine who is a close contact.”
Devine ISD has one of the most comprehensive policies for face coverings which also includes athletic events and has had far less cases than neighboring districts.
This January, Devine ISD became the first and only local district to discontinue remote learning (for students without a medical wavier). The recent transition to having most students on campus has also presented challenges.
“As more students came back to campuses, the distance between desks has shrunk. There isn’t always a way to seat kids 6 feet apart. So even though they are wearing masks, if you were within 6 feet of someone for more than 15 minutes, you are most likely going to be notified as a close contact,” Grandjean said.
Devine ISD has never had to quarantine a whole class. Grandjean said this is kind of unchartered territory for Devine ISD, which has maintained the lowest numbers of positive cases in the area.
“This is a first for us. We have never had to quarantine a whole class before, so we are kind of studying it and taking the utmost precaution. Our custodians have been doing a great job, and they are doing a deep cleaning of the affected classroom tonight. That’s an extra four hours to ensure we hit every surface. They are also cleaning common areas like the playground and cafeteria very thoroughly. They do touch the same surfaces on the playground, but our custodians have backpack sprayers to spray down all the equipment,” Grandjean said.
What happens when someone is close contact?
“If a person is a close contact today, you have the option to either stay out the 14 days or 10 days with no symptoms or no worsening symptoms. We leave that up to the individual ever since the CDC changed the required length to 10 days. You can come back to campus if you have had no symptoms and a negative test after 5 days,” Grandjean said.
“Staff would normally only take 10 days,” Grandjean added.
What happens when staff is affected by Covid?
“Our board voted to allow for 10 additional paid days for those affected by quarantines. After that unfortunately, they would have to use vacation days or state leave days. Anything beyond that, their job is still protected, however there just isn’t funding for anymore paid days off,” Grandjean said.
“It’s getting to the point, where somebody may be working on funding for that at the State level, but that is our policy right now. Some will also choose to work remotely if that is possible to avoid days off,” Grandjean said.
“We are doing everything we can to stay one step ahead of this virus, but everyday it’s something new.”