Despite the many challenges presented by the coronavirus, Culpeper County Public Schools officials say they are not aware of a single virus transmission within a regular classroom.
If somebody tests positive or is suspected to be positive, Student Services Director Russell Houck said they are removed from the schools and everyone they may have contacted is notified. These notifications include “general contact” (being in the same building), “specific contact” (being in the same room) or “close contact.” While individuals are notified of these close contact situations, the School Board has opted against producing a public weekly summary outlining positive cases and the number of individuals who have quarantined within the school system.
Houck recently told the school board that “close contacts” have generally occurred in expected areas such as special needs classrooms.
“They are like a family in that classroom. In many cases those kids have been with those adults for years and they are close. And those teachers and parents knew going in that their chance of exposure was higher than regular classrooms,” he said.
Other close contacts have occurred on busses, as Houck said “if we wanted to make sure that kids could never get close to each other we wouldn’t be able to transport but four or five kids at a time.”
Other issues, he said, are presented during staff lunchtimes or “when people are working and meeting in close proximity to each other and you’re working with someone so often and so much you just kind of forget yourself sometimes.”
“But those are the rare circumstances. I want to be clear: We have not had a close contact in a regular classroom. We’ve not had a transmission in those environments to our knowledge. So the contract tracing has been critical to us,” he said.
Houck noted that “isolation rooms” separate from clinics have been added, but these have luckily rarely been used because “as soon as we see the symptoms, we’re excluding them until they get checked out.”
Regarding CCPS’ collaboration with the health department in contract tracing, he said “I think we’re a model for that in our state.”
The Virginia Department of Health recently released guidelines for schools seeking to return to in-person learning, and Houck said Culpeper County is meeting all of the checkmarks.
“Consistent, correct use of masks - check. Social distancing - check,” he said.
Regarding social distancing measures, Houck said the schools are being “extra cautious” and every student has six feet of space although three feet is appropriate for younger students.