CORVALLIS — The pressures of dealing with the spike in positive COVID-19 cases are building, as administrators struggle to limit the speed of infection, while still trying to keep classes open.
The latest tool, at least for the smaller and medium-sized districts, is to close buildings entirely for a 14-day quarantine.
The Corvallis School Board got the bad news last week when a spike in cases -- and a loss of specialty teachers -- forced the closure of Corvallis Primary School.
“This is something we didn't want to do. We're trying not to do is we would rather close a classroom or a grade level," Corvallis School Superintendent, Jon Kronen, said.
Corvallis has been using a "cohort model", allowing all students to come back to school but keeping groups smaller. New guidelines on contact tracing are expanding the number of people impacted if there's a positive case.
At one point, 114 students and staff were quarantined. The district hopes keeping the Primary School students home will allow that "reset" to keep everyone coming to class.
“We do have a hybrid model ready to go if the cases if they increase. Then we could look at going that option," said Kronen.
Like other Montana schools, Corvallis has begun using a Tier 1-Tier 2 approach to manage contacts.
That's why the district is advising families with mixed-age children to go ahead and send middle, and high school students to class.
“Right now a family member at home that’s in the middle school or high school are, you know, two levels away from that positive. So you know not directly with that exposure of that positive case. So unless they're symptomatic, we want them here," said Kronen
District officials are asking parents to limit students' contact with others as much as possible to make the closure more effective.
In fact, Kronen says Corvallis' parents have been doing a great job of using the information on the district's website to track symptoms and check-in.
“That'll be huge if we continue with that. We keep pushing that out every couple weeks here to make sure families are doing that. And [the] same with staff members. If staff members have some of the symptoms we don't want to come into school either at this point," said Kronen.
Corvallis was very aggressive in assigning Chromebooks to all 4th through 12th students this year, and the district reminds parents to make sure those are charged up, just in case other emergency changes have to be made.
“Luckily, a lot of the classroom teachers have been really working hard at getting all of their curriculum up on Google Classroom so they can access pretty much the same stuff that they're doing in the classroom, just not having as much interaction that you would from a face to face instruction," said Kronen.