Coronavirus updates

RNeSU responds to Covid-19 cases in schools

Remote learning week already planned Jan. 4-8

By Lee J. Kahrs

The first cases of Covid-19 have been reported in two Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union (RNeSU) schools.

RNeSU Superintendent Jeanne Collins, herself recovering from the coronavirus, confirmed the first cases on Dec. 18 and Dec. 23 sent out an email and a Facebook post to parents and staff.

The first positive cases came just two days after Collins announced that all students in the supervisory union would be doing remote learning the week following the break, Jan. 4-8, 2021. That was announced to mitigate the effects of families and staff who may have mixed households during the Christmas/New Years break.

Collins announced all remote learning for the district the first two days of school following the Thanksgiving break as well.

Of the two new positive cases announced Dec. 18, one involves a student at Otter Valley Union High School, and the other involves the SOAR afterschool program for kindergarten through second grade students. That program has been shut down until after the holiday break. Students who attended that SOAR program from Dec. 7-15 have been asked to quarantine. Siblings do not need to quarantine, according to school officials. Third through sixth graders in SOAR were not been asked to quarantine.

Otter Valley remained open for the last two days of classes before the holiday break.

“The Department of Health does not recommend any further action at Otter Valley at this time,” Collins wrote in the message to parents and staff. “We plan to be open as usual on Monday and Tuesday before break. We will continue to take appropriate measures as we are updated.”

On Dec. 23, Collins confirmed a few more confirmed cases affecting the district. In an email to parents she wrote: “Late afternoon on Dec. 22, 2020 we learned about persons in our learning community with Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) at Otter Valley UHS and at Lothrop and Barstow Elementary Schools.  These cases are NOT related to the earlier OV case. People who are close contacts have been identified and contacted at both locations and given guidance as to next steps to take.”

At both Otter Valley and Lothrop, close contacts of the positive case were notified and the Vermont Dept. of Health did not recommend any further action.

At Barstow, the individual who tested positive was not at school during an infectious period. As a result, there were no identified close contacts who need to quarantine.

Regarding the decision to go all-remote learning for the week following the holiday break, Jan. 4-8, Collins said she heard enough from families and staff to make the decision.

“They’re just sob stories,” she said. “The last Christmas of a parent, things like that. I acknowledge that there are a lot of different family situations out there. I recognize that it’s just going to be much more difficult at Christmas and if we had a case, it would pop up the week of Jan. 4-8, so it made sense that would be a remote learning week in order to return on Jan. 11 and be stable. I wanted to make that decision as early as I could, and I absolutely understand how difficult it is.”

Collins added that the Vermont Department of Health has been very responsive and helpful with contract tracing the positive cases and other support measures.

“I’ve had several conversations with the Department of Health regarding who was a close contact or who needed to answer more questions and talked through the level of risk,” she said. “They’ve been very responsive and individuals who have questions about their own contacts should contact the Department of Health directly.”

Lastly, Collins would like to remind all families and staff members that if they plan to travel and/or mix households over Christmas, to plan on quarantining from Dec. 28-Jan. 11.

For more information or to ask questions regarding Covid protocols, quarantine, school cases and safety precautions, call the Vermont Department of Health at 800-464-4343 or at 802-863-7200.

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