A family sent their child back to school while their COVID-19 test result was still pending – only to find out the student was positive midway through their first day back.
Greenfield-Central Junior High School in Greenfield, Indiana, was among the first schools to reopen on July 30, after having been shut down in March during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
But, midway through the school’s first day back, the health department informed school officials that one of their students – who has not been named – tested positive for coronavirus.
That night, parents and students were sent an email notifying them about the positive coronavirus case at the school. They were told that the student attended school for part of the day before being yanked from class and isolated in the school’s clinic.
Those who had been in close contact with the child – which was defined as being within six feet for more than 15 minutes – were also notified that day. They will have to go into quarantine for 14 days.
The next day, school officials revealed that the child’s parents had had the kid tested for coronavirus a few days prior, but had opted to send the child to school rather than wait for the test results to come in.
‘Not exactly the start we were looking for in that specific school,’ Greenfield-Central Community School Corp. Superintendent Dr. Harold Olin told CNN.
Olin said that he was ‘disappointed’ about how the new school year started, saying that it was ‘unfortunate’ to have been a family on the receiving end of the school’s quarantine call.
‘They have this excitement about being back for the first day of school and that very night getting a phone call saying your child is going to need to stay home for two weeks. Disappointing? Yes,’ Olin told RTV6. ‘The word you asked me about. Yes I’m disappointed.’
Olin said that the school ‘will continue to control the variables we can control’ – including thoroughly disinfecting the school nightly – but asked that parents ‘control the variable they can control, which is the self-screening piece.’
Indiana’s Hancock County health officials have said that kids should stay home if they have coronavirus symptoms, a fever of 99.5 degrees or more, are awaiting coronavirus test results or have been near or in direct contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
‘There’s no way that you can completely keep that out of a school corporation with 4,400 kids, or even if you have 300 kids in a school. You’re likely going to have it as some point,’ Olin told WOWT of the possibility of positive coronavirus test results popping up in the school district.
Despite this, Olin said that the school district is now focusing on making sure that parents are aware of expectations on them to help stop coronavirus from spreading amongst students.
‘If a pending test is out there we would think that parents would not send their students to us until that was clear,’ Olin said.
Parents of students at the junior high were upset that their peers hadn’t used their ‘common sense,’ resulting in their children potentially being exposed to coronavirus.
‘Why would you send your child to school knowing that you are waiting for this result?’ junior high parent Kelley Thompson asked, noting that ‘The guidelines say that if your kid is running a fever or having symptoms you keep your kid home.’
She added, ‘That’s common sense.’
Fellow parent, Monika Ogle, told RTV6: ‘So, of course in my mind I’m thinking here we go.’
‘Honestly, I was just waiting for the phone call but I never received one so hopefully that means everything is good,’ she added.
One parent tweeted: ‘I’m not at all happy that my son was exposed and is now having to isolate at home, and now our entire family could be at risk.’
‘What in the world was this parent thinking, sending their child to school KNOWING that this kid had a decent COVID test, waiting for results???’ he wondered.
Patricia Woods, whose daughter is among the 15 per cent of the school district that is continuing with virtual classes said that the possibility of a student testing positive for coronavirus was one of the reasons why she wanted her daughter to stay at home for the school year.
‘That’s why I was really hesitant to send my children back to begin with,’ Woods told WOWT. ‘Not only are you risking your family but you’re risking everybody else’s family as well. It’s just not worth it.’
Olin told the news station that some parents had requested to have their children do virtual learning instead of returning to in-person classes after hearing about the child who had tested positive on the first day of school.
As for the school’s educators, Olin told CNN, ‘That does create additional anxiety for some of our teachers who are kind of on the fence about being back anyway, and we’re certainly trying to work through a few of those.’
Other school districts have also had to contend with students and staff members who have tested positive for coronavirus in the lead up to the state’s early reopening of schools.
A football player at New Palestine High School in New Palestine, Indiana, tested positive for coronavirus last week.
Like Greenfield-Central Junior High School, New Palestine High School followed strict sanitation procedures and contact tracing protocols. They also cancelled football practice on July 31, school officials told CNN.
Another football player – attending Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana – tested positive, too.
Although the school year doesn’t start until Thursday, people who had been in close contact with the athlete was told to quarantine for 14 days, school officials said.
A staff member testing positive for coronavirus at Elwood Junior-Senior High School in Elwood, Indiana, prompted school officials to decide to move all classes online this week while the school is being disinfected.
School officials told CNN that none of the students had been in contact with the staff member, however.