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SMS Family Info – Contact Tracing

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As you know, earlier this week a positive COVID-19 case on campus required our team to go through the contact tracing process to identify other individuals who may have been at risk of exposure.  We know families have questions about this process, and the time involved to complete it, and wanted to provide you with more information about how we respond to reports of COVID cases on-site.

The contact tracing process begins when the school first receives a report of a positive case. This can happen in a number of ways, including staff self-reporting or a parent/guardian notifying our office that their student has COVID.  While staff self-report their cases directly to the District Office and their immediate supervisor, student report information is entered into a digital form, which automatically alerts our school nurses and Facilities teams that a response is required. 

Once school nurses receive a case report, they work directly with Washington County Public Health to verify a positive test result. If needed, additional information is gathered through contact with the staff or parent/guardian of the student.  These steps to verify test results and gather all necessary information are critical, as these details largely determine the need for additional contacts to quarantine. Sherwood School District adheres to Washington County Public Health’s requirement of a 14 day quarantine, even if a negative test result is received. This is because the virus has a 14 day incubation period and it may take that long for an individual to become ill. 

Next, we gather information to help us determine all possible close contacts that the diagnosed individual may have had while on campus during the period of contagion. Close contact means being within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, cumulative over a 24 hour period, regardless of whether masks were worn or not. This process includes reviewing class schedules, identifying any participation in breakout groups or other on-campus supports (such as counseling), or cross-referencing staff work schedules. We also verify attendance and verify adherence with safety protocols — such as social distancing and mask wearing — in all locations which the diagnosed individual visited while on-campus. Contact is made with all individuals/families identified through this process, and in some cases, interviewing others (such as members of the staff) is necessary to confirm if a quarantine is needed. Collaboration between the school, our district nurses, and County Public Health occurs throughout this stage of the process. 

While we know the time needed to complete these steps can be frustrating to families, our goal is to know, with certainty, if any other members of our school community will need to quarantine to monitor for symptoms, even on a precautionary status.  These measures are intended to prevent any further spread of COVID on our campus, as well as to minimize any unnecessary disruption to learning for those students who were not at risk of exposure. We appreciate your patience this week as we completed this process, and we will continue to notify you of any future cases on our campus.