COVID-19 quarantines impact Douglas County schools

11 schools affected in 1st full week of hybrid learning

Jessica Gibbs
jgibbs@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/4/20

Public records show students and staff from nearly a dozen schools were impacted by quarantines during the first full week of hybrid learning for the Douglas County School District, and health …

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COVID-19 quarantines impact Douglas County schools

11 schools affected in 1st full week of hybrid learning

Posted

Public records show students and staff from nearly a dozen schools were impacted by quarantines during the first full week of hybrid learning for the Douglas County School District, and health officials investigated at least one outbreak.

A Colorado Community Media analysis of emails among district officials and letters issued by the district's Health, Wellness and Prevention Team between Aug. 22 and Aug. 31 shows 11 schools were affected by quarantines in roughly the first full week of hybrid learning.

The local health department also investigated at least one outbreak after two cases were confirmed in one school cohort.

District staff presented data at the Sept. 1 board meeding showing there were at least four positive cases of COVID-19 among district staff and students. Approximately 55 staff members and 247 students had been in isolation or quarantine.

Colorado Community Media's analysis found the district notified community members of at least six positive cases at schools by Aug. 31.

The Douglas County School District opened its year on a “hybrid” learning model, where students are divided into two groups that alternate attending class in-person and online. Students enrolled in hybrid learning spend two days a week in school and three days at home.

The district is the third largest in Colorado, serving 68,000 students across more than 90 schools. The data presented Sept. 1 is self-reported to the district and accounts for the approximate 8,400 staff members and 53,700 students in district-run schools.

Staff cautioned that data changes daily and the Sept. 1 presentation was a snapshot of cases and exposures in the district at that time.

The district places anyone who had close contact with a person known or presumed to have COVID-19 on a 14-day quarantine.

Not all quarantines issued during the first week of school lasted a full 14 days. Some were lifted early after an individual who fell ill with COVID-19 symptoms tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

Preschool students at Arrowwood Elementary School in Highlands Ranch were told to quarantine on Aug. 25 after an individual at the school showed COVID-19 symptoms but they were released from quarantine on Aug. 28 when the person tested negative.

It's not clear from the letters how many people at each school were placed on quarantine, but a single exposure can have a wide impact.

In some district buildings, students and staff from multiple classrooms were quarantined after a person who moved throughout the school showed COVID-19 symptoms.

At Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, 114 students and 20 staff were placed on quarantine after someone who had contact with various classrooms tested positive, according to emails sent to board directors and a letter to the school community.

A similar situation unfolded at Chaparral High School in Parker, according to an Aug. 31 letter to the school community. The school instructed 88 people to quarantine until Sept. 14, a spokeswoman said.

In another instance, according to public records, seven students were quarantined after someone on a bus route serving Sedalia Elementary School, Sagewood Middle School and Ponderosa High School tested positive.

Letters sent to schools show the Tri-County Health Department investigated an outbreak at Sand Creek Elementary School in Highlands Ranch after two cases were confirmed within the same cohort.

Sand Creek Elementary School was the first school impacted by quarantines, according to the records. The district on Aug. 22 notified sixth-grade students and teachers they would need to quarantine for 14 days after the first positive case was confirmed at the school.

Students, teachers and support staff in a third-grade cohort were placed on quarantine by Aug. 28 after a third positive case at the school.

Six of the schools affected by quarantines were elementaries or preschools.

All pre-kindergarten students and staff at Rock Ridge Elementary School in Castle Rock were quarantined on Aug. 31 after an individual at the school developed COVID-19 symptoms.

That same day, all pre-kindergarten students and an unspecified numbers of staff members were quarantined at Flagstone Elementary School in Castle Rock.

A kindergarten class, teacher and support staff member at Clear Sky Elementary School in Castle Rock were quarantined on Aug. 27 after a person in the school developed symptoms.

The district later notified the Clear Sky community the person had tested positive, and those who had close contact with the individual were told to remain in quarantine and not return to school until Sept. 9.

Superintendent Thomas Tucker has said it would have been easier for the district to conduct full online learning to start the year, but he and staff wanted to give students the opportunity to learn in-person if conditions were safe.

At press time, Tucker was not available to comment for this story. School Board President David Ray could not be reached for comment.

Elliott Wenzler contributed to this story.

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