How Dade Schools will handle positive COVID-19 cases and exposures

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Less than two days before the start of school  K-WIN Today with Evan Stone hosted Dade County Superintendent Dr. Jan Harris to share information on the start of school.

Harris shared information from a newsletter she sent out on Monday regarding how schools were handling positive COVID-19 cases and exposures. The school system has taken a collaborative approach to their response to COVID-19, Harris said, and have worked with the CDC guidelines, Georgia Department of Education, the Department of Public Health, and local health department to come up with their plans for Dade County schools. In order to be extra sure of the re-opening plan, Harris submitted the plan to Dr. Gary Voccio, Director of Public Health for the Northwest Georgia Region and received his blessing on the plan.

The system has 4 employees and 1 student athlete that have tested positive as of Tuesday

 

There are four key points for students and staff regarding COVID-19 exposures and positive tests.

 

  1. Definition of EXPOSED: This means you were closer than 6 feet to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and you didn’t have a mask on and you were closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes.
  2. IF you were EXPOSED to someone COVID-19 POSITIVE, then you must quarantine for 14 DAYS and should be tested on the 10th day.
  3. IF YOU TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19, you should ISOLATE at home for a minimum of 10 days and 24 hours without symptoms and fever-free without fever-reducing medications. This means you may be isolated longer than 10 days.
  4. Dr. Voccio reminds us to be vigilant about hand-washing with soap and water, social distancing and wearing a mask/face shield.

 

What does this mean, Harris said just because a student in a class or on a bus tests positive does not mean there has been exposures. Only those who have been less than six feet from the student who tested positive while not wearing a mask for more than 15 minutes are considered exposures. If you do have an exposure you must quarantine for 14 days and be tested for COVID on day 10. If your COVID test is positive on day 10, then you quarantine for another ten days and must be symptom and fever-free without medication for 24 hours.

For employees who test positive or may have been exposed, they will be contacting their principal or direct supervisor when issues arise. The supervisor/principal, nurse, HR rep, and superintendent will work collaboratively with DPH to advise.  Harris also said the school is doing their own contact tracing when positive cases occur.

At the schools, students will go straight to their classroom for elementary students and homeroom for middle and high school students. Elementary students will receive breakfast at no cost to parents. Harris said the plan for free breakfast was made and they will see how it goes after the first semester.

Students will see dividers at tables, social distancing where possible, increased ventilation with open windows and doors where necessary, backpack sanitizers, more lunch periods, smaller groups, no assemblies or large group gatherings, a nurse at each school, teachers wearing masks and face shields, additional ventilation systems in the band and chorus rooms, assigned seating, and minimal class changes for elementary students and masks required during class changes in secondary schools. Students who do not want to wear a mask for class changes will remain in the classroom until after students with masks have changed class and will go to their next class then.

For bus riders, all riders must wear masks because social distancing on the buses is not possible. Buses will have assigned seating based on family groups with spacing where possible. You can register for bus transportation online at dadecountyschools.org.

Currently, 18%, or almost 400 students, in Dade County schools have been registered for online learning through the school system, according to Dr. Harris. Having fewer students in the schools will allow more space for social distancing.

Dr. Harris said that she had recently told system teachers and staff that Maslow is higher than Bloom – meaning Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with Safety at the top of the pyramid is more important than Bloom’s hierarchy of learning. Students need to feel safe.

“Basic safety needs trump the hierarchy of learning,” Harris said.

A couple of reminders from Dr. Harris include parents checking students’ temperatures every morning before they leave for school, a fever is anything 100.4 F or higher and students must stay home, fill out Free and Reduced lunch program forms (they are only seen by School Nutrition Director Dr. Long), and encouraging everyone to work at being healthier.

As of now, the school system has five reported positive tests, four of whom are staff members. Dr. Harris said all of them were doing fine and at home. Dr. Harris also took a few minutes to mention the outpouring of support the school system had received in the form of letters, messages, phone calls and prayer. Harris encouraged everyone to pray for the health and safety of students and staff.

“Our parents, our citizens, and our community have been so supportive,” Dr. Harris said.

If parents have any questions, principals at the schools will be their point of contact. For those with bus questions, Brother John Smith can be contacted at the school bus barn.

A complete video of the interview with Dr. Harris on K-WIN Today can be viewed below, as well as the video of what school will look like featuring DCHS created by Principal James Fahrney, and the conference with Governor Brian Kemp and the Surgeon General answering questions regarding the re-opening of Georgia schools.