COLORADO SPRINGS– Just as soon as the school year started, it ended, for one employee in Harrison School District 2, as well as for her 3rd grade daughter.
Rachael Hartson worked as a paraprofessional at Soaring Eagles Elementary School and her daughter was enrolled there.
“I took this job for her medical issues, so I could be there if something happened,” Hartson said.
Hartson has enrolled her daughter in another district, one, she said, who’s plan for in-person learning seemed safer.
On Monday, D2 opened classrooms largely for just elementary students, but Hartson was concerned by a change in protocols, announced after school was dismissed that day.
She said she’s concerned regarding what actions would take place once a positive COVID-19 case was announced, and futher, in how Soaring Eagles Elementary School. specifically, defines its “cohorts” of students.
Cohorting is the practice of grouping students together as they learn throughout the day and go to different places of the school, in order to minimize intermingling of students, and hopefully reducing the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
In Harrison schools, the cohort is defined as a student’s classroom. In a normal year, those classes are capped at 24 students but, with some families opting for remote learning, the district reports around a dozen students in each classroom. District Public Information Officer Christine O’Brien said there are times, such as during lunch and recess, when classes in an entire grades come together.
“There will be some times when it is a grade level, but students are still socially distanced, they’re wearing masks, they’re frequently washing hands and sanitizing hands,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien pointed out students will be separated from other classes during those events as well.
“This doesn’t seem to be a problem to anyone, for me it is,” Hartson said. “You want people to have as minimal contact as possible to make it as safe as possible.
O’Brien says the late change to the school district’s protocol Monday was initiated when changes were announced by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
Per the state, a positive test would change from a mandatory quarantine of 14 days, for an entire cohort, to a mandatory quarantine for the infected person while the others are asked to monitor their symptoms for four days.
“Our district wasn’t quite comfortable with that,” O’Brien said.
Instead, the district decided one infected case will cause the closure of the impacted building for four days, while fumigation, cleaning, and contact tracing is conducted.
“We had to weigh heavily on what does it do potentially, shutting down and taking it remote for four days. We know that’s a change for parents, especially parents who have to work,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said the district was notified of the state’s updated guidance last week, but took the next several days to create its own plan of action.