COVID exposure traced to Garfield Re-2 buses, moves nearly 100 students to online distance learning |

COVID exposure traced to Garfield Re-2 buses, moves nearly 100 students to online distance learning

Elk Creek Elementary School in New Castle was one of five district schools impacted by the latest COVID-19 cases among students and resulting quarantines.
Post Independent |

About 100 students attending five different Garfield Re-2 District schools remain in quarantine and on the district’s distance learning plan after several positive or presumed COVID-19 cases were traced to potential exposure on school buses.

The school district announced the latest shift from in-person to online learning for large blocks of students in an announcement to parents and the community earlier this week.

It comes on the heels of quarantines triggered by earlier positive cases at Riverside Middle School and Coal Ridge High School where, as of last week, some quarantined students had begun to return to school.

The most recent cases directly impacted students from those two schools again, as well as Kathryn Senor and Elk Creek Elementary schools, and Rifle Middle School, according to the district news release.

“Many of those quarantined received their exposure on the bus,” the release stated.

Both of the impacted bus routes did not run on Monday and Tuesday this week, due to bus drivers needing to be quarantined. The routes resumed on Wednesday and Thursday, Garfield Re-2 public information officer Theresa Hamilton said.

“We identified staff that have CDLs and we got them the appropriate paperwork to serve as substitute drivers for us,” Hamilton said.

However, the situation stressed a student transportation system that already has a short availability of substitute drivers.

“This is a huge issue for us, just like substitute teachers,” Hamilton said.

Several classrooms that were directly impacted by the latest COVID-19 cases in the Re-2 schools transitioned to distance learning, as was the case in the previous incidents. Teachers in the district are being asked to provide instruction remotely to those students, through either the See-Saw or Google Classroom platforms that the district uses.

Garfield Re-2 is one of several area school districts that have decided to start the new school year giving parents and students the option of in-person learning, in addition to a distance learning option.

Garfield District 16 in Parachute, Eagle County Schools and, for now, just the elementary school students in the Aspen School District, also are back to school in person.

The Roaring Fork District schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt remain on a distance learning plan, without an in-person option, until the risk of disease spread lessens.

As part of a public health investigation that was launched with the latest Re-2 COVID cases:

• All persons diagnosed are being kept home from school until they are no longer infectious.

• Those person’s activities, when they could have spread COVID-19, have been assessed.

• The people who were close contacts of the person(s) with COVID-19 are being instructed to stay home and not attend school or other public activities for 14 days (quarantine) after the exposure.

“Bus riders are considered a close contact if they rode the bus with the infected individual for 15 minutes or more,” according to the district’s news release about the matter. “Any child that was in at least one class or group as the individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, must follow quarantine instructions and stay home from school for 14 days.”

The school district continues to work closely with Garfield County Public Health to conduct contact tracing, and all students and staff members who were identified as having been in “close contact” with those who have tested positive were contacted and advised to quarantine for 14 days.

“Custodial staff had been paying extra attention to all schools, and both deep cleaning and disinfecting schools frequently,” the district release also stated. “All schools had been thoroughly disinfected prior to children returning to school [Monday].”

Hamilton said that no changes in school bus protocols are being made. Buses are already being operated at reduced rider capacity and with extra buses where needed and feasible.

Last weekend, Re-2 announced that the district’s high schools would be opting out of the fall football season after the Colorado High School Activities Association agreed to organize a fall season, in addition to the previously announced spring Season C for football and other traditional fall sports.

One reason the district decided to wait was the extra costs associated with taking teams to away games, as multiple buses would be needed under the protocols.

The district was not yet aware of the bus-related COVID cases at the time the football decision was made, though, Hamilton said.

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