BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It’s been about ten days since the first day of school started for Wasco Elementary School District and already ten students have tested positive for COVID-19 with 75 others quarantining at home.
23ABC reporter Mythili Gubbi talked to the District Superintendent about the challenges so far this year, and what other schools can learn from their experience to keep kids safe.
Wasco Elementary was one of the first districts to reopen to in-person learning for this school year but the district has had to send about 100 kids to quarantine at home since August 2 due to possible exposure.
Despite all of this, they think that this situation has helped them iron out the kinks in the system and figure out the most effective safety measures to keep as many kids in school as possible.
Wasco Elementary School District Superintendent Kelly Richers said when kids started to fall sick, initially, the whole classroom was sent home to quarantine for 14 days because they too could have been infected: “Now we have discovered that according to the latest guidelines, that if we make a few slight adjustments, we don’t have to do [quarantine students] anymore.”
One of those adjustments is mainly during lunch time, when the kids sit together without their masks while they eat. Brad Maberry, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, “When we did our initial consultation with the health department upon our first case, we found a weak link in our chain which was our cafeteria setting.”
The school has created a seating chart in the cafeteria so teachers and staff can know exactly who was sitting closest to the person who was infected, and from there planning who needs to be sent home.
This system means that instead of having to send the whole class home, only 3-4 students in addition to the one who tests positive, need to quarantine. Also, the school has added more tables outdoors to distance the children and reduce possible spread.
“I’m very glad we are over the hump for learning this process, and we have it down pretty much to a science right now. We can’t guarantee other students won’t get infected, so we must have a very effective way of dealing with the situation. What’s most concerning to me is that a student who has done nothing whatsoever but been in a class must be sent home. We want to reduce that to as few as we can.”
Superintendent Richers said that eight students are currently positive, and two have recovered.
He adds, infected students are sent home for ten days and students who could have been exposed are sent home for 14 days to monitor symptoms and get tested as well.