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Sixty in quarantine for active Loyal school COVID-19 case


Approximately 60 Loyal School District students and teachers -- including the entire fourth grade -- are in quarantine for the next 14 days after a person who was in the school last week tested positive for COVID- 19. In-person classes were cancelled on Monday and students and teachers switched to a virtual day as school and Clark County Health Department officials conducted contact tracing to determine who may have been in direct contact with the infected person.

Loyal District Administrator Chris Lindner said the county notified school district officials on Sunday of the positive test. Attempts were made to contact all staff members that day to go through initial contact tracing, but Lindner said they couldn’t reach them all, so the decision was made to call off Monday classes.

“We had a hard time doing our contact tracing because we couldn‘t get a hold of some of our teachers,” Lindner said. “We didn’t feel confident. There were too many variables.”

Contact tracing involves determining where and when an infected person was, and who may have had “first contact” with them. If a student or staff member was known to possibly have been within six feet of that person for 15 minutes or more, they are placed in quarantine and not allowed to return to the school for 14 days.

Lindner said staff members and bus drivers provided input on possible first contact, and bus video camera footage was viewed.

Lindner said the entire fourth grade class was found to have been in first contact, as were about 25 junior high students and a “handful” of others who were either on the same bus route or elsewhere in the school.

With about 60 of the school’s 550 total students now kept at home, Lindner said the decision was made to resume classes on Tuesday. Based on county Health Department guidelines, Lindner said the school would be shut down if at least 20 percent of the students were ordered to quarantine. The 60 students translates to about 11 percent.

Lindner said the Loyal staff switched to its virtual education plan for Monday, and about 65 percent of the junior/senior high students logged in live to their scheduled classes. For those who did not, a recorded version of the class is available.

“For being a last-minute thing, I thought it went alright,” Lindner said.

He also said it has been the assumption in the school that something like this would occur at some time during the school year, which started for students on Sept. 1. Just eight days into the year, it already did.

Lindner said the school was careful in dealing with this first case as any infection has the chance of affecting the entire operation.

“Our goal is to stay open as long as we possibly can. That is why we did what we did,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone is safe and we are erring on the side of caution.”

The county has set the 14-day quarantine time frame as it is believed to be necessary for any person who has had first contact with an infected person to pass through the virus incubation and onset period. Since those people were directly in contact with a person who tested positive, they will be watched for symptoms and advised to get tested themselves if any arise.

The students who are in quarantine will now be taught virtually in their homes. The school will be getting the students their laptop computers, and they will sit in on classes from home or view the recorded versions.

“Our teachers, I think, are doing a good job of communicating with them to make sure they know where those kids are at,” Lindner said.

The positive case also forced the school to push back the start of junior high football and volleyball practices from Monday to Wednesday. The students who are in quarantine will not be allowed to participate in those activities until they have gone through the 14-day period.

Lindner said the district is trying to provide the best education it can while also safeguarding from a COVID-19 outbreak that could send everyone home.

“We’re trying to protect everyone and stop the spread,” he said. “We’ll just work together and get through it.”