Schools got underway in the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) with a two-day week last week. On Sunday night, August 29, on the eve of the district’s first full week of school, families received notification about a positive case of COVID-19 at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury.
The Valley Reporter reached out to HUUSD as well as several child care organizations for clarification on how COVID case notifications would work this year and what the protocols are for the 2021-22 school year.
The case was in a fifth-grade student and 22 students were determined to be close contacts with the student. The fifth-grader who tested positive did not ride the school bus, the letter from HUUSD Superintendent Brigid Nease noted. Families of the close contacts were notified early this week. Close contact is defined as being closer than 6 feet to someone who has the virus for more than 15 minutes.
Per state guidelines, fully vaccinated people who are exposed as close contacts do not need to quarantine and are advised to get tested on the third or fourth day if they become symptomatic. The district’s guidance advises that students displaying symptoms of COVID-19, such as headache, runny nose, cough and fatigue, should stay home, contact the school nurse and their primary care provider and get tested for the virus. Students with symptoms will be asked to stay home until they have received negative test results.
Unvaccinated students exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days, which means no school, work or other activities outside of the home. While home in quarantine students will not be participating in classes electronically as HUUSD is not offering a remote option this year.
Unvaccinated students should also get tested twice, two days after the exposure and again seven days after being exposed. If the test is positive, they should notify the school and follow Vermont Department of Health guidelines. If symptoms develop during the quarantine period, the student should be tested again and continue to quarantine until they receive a negative test.
Unvaccinated students who have not shown any symptoms and receive a negative test result on the seventh day after exposure, may end their quarantine and return to school, but should continue to monitor for symptoms. If a student tests positive, they may return to school if they have no symptoms after 10 days. They will need clearance from their primary care provider to return to sports and physical education classes.
If a student or employee is notified that they have tested positive for COVID-19, they should contact the HUUSD COVID coordinator at 802-583-8027. If a student or employee tests positive for COVID, the school will work to contact trace and advise any close contacts to quarantine. Fully vaccinated individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms will not be required to quarantine but should get tested.
HUSSD’s reopening protocols require students and staff to wear masks both indoors and outdoors, though not while in sports play. Masks must be worn on buses, which will be organized by seating charts to assist with contract tracing. Maintaining distancing of 6 feet will be practiced when possible.
HUUSD will be one of the 75% of Vermont school districts to take part in surveillance testing for COVID-19 throughout the year. This year, with an estimated 80% of staff vaccinated (and vaccines required), teachers and students will be tested regularly to slow the spread of COVID and catch asymptomatic cases.
Outside of HUUSD, Neck of the Woods Childcare Center in Waitsfield had a positive COVID case several weeks ago and director/founder Moie Moulton undertook the contact tracing and called every single family in her program whose children were close contacts and asked them to get tested. She shut down the infant-child program and everybody got tested. She only discovered one family member of a student who tested positive.
Moulton noted that she learned of the first positive case from the family of the child and only heard from the Vermont Department of Health for two days when she received a list to fill out for close contacts.
Going forward she said she didn’t think she’d close down the infant-child program if another case in the preschool program is found.
She said that students and staff are masking and practicing the recommended guidelines including handwashing and social distancing.
“The preschoolers are doing the best job of all in masking. They’re very good at it,” Moulton said.
Jenny Carlson, director at Waitsfield Children’s Center, echoed Moulton in terms of protocols being followed. There have been no recent cases at the center – which hosts 18 students – only one case was reported last winter. At the time, she contacted the health department and they walked her through determining close contacts. She said the center ended up closing for a week so that everyone could get tested.
A call to the Sugarbush Day School in Sugarbush Village, Warren, was not returned.