COVID-19 testing and contact tracing key for safely reopening schools, two new studies suggest
Some classrooms begin to open the US Dr Anthony Fauci said today that schools should proceed with caution and make safety a priority down. She also said that students need the psychological nutritional benefits and pretending in person classes although acknowledges that parents have to quote. Dramatically modified their work schedule this as we touched on earlier, two new studies suggesting scaled up testing and contact tracing of those who test positive being key factors in any school reopening. To professionals who are facing these issues in different dates. Becky stone is the director of Alcoa City schools in Tennessee and Brian Woods Superintendent of the northside independent school district in San Antonio Texas, appreciate both of you for for being here tonight Becky the for the first day back to school in your area. Tennessee was July twenty second week and a half ago you. I know you've had four confirmed coronavirus cases. You expect so many. So soon and and how you responded that how does that change thing? Is. When we decided that we were going to open wing knew that we would have cases We unfortunately didn't go into it thinking that. No one was going to get sick because lots goes on those folks are going to get sick if they're in school or not but the first one we had was Just right. After we opened school and we met together and as attain. We did our contact tracing and because I felt like we had some really good protocols in place we really didn't the exposure was very limited and the second time it happened was last week and again I feel like because of the protocols we have in place in the safeguards there was very little exposure Interesting that that you're doing your own contact trae saying as a school That's a that's obviously a smart thing to do given the problems we're seeing with contract tracing on kind of you know on the large scale. Bryan Texas you're facing a different timelines. Schools haven't opened yet in your district, but once they do they'll be required to have full person learning after the first eight weeks. I correct me if I'm wrong on that do you think that timeline will allow you to keep your students and teachers say It's a good question and it's one that I hope we don't have to contemplate obviously our preferences not to have a a set timeline but rather to allow a local school leaders in elected boards of trustees to make decisions about what safe for their students in their staff. So a it is concerning to us that we have kind of an arbitrary time line of eight weeks, and then whoever wants to be back in the building. Ganvie. Becky I. Knew Your district did stagger started with students coming in for in person classes I think only one day week, which means I, think he'd only have a twenty percent occupancy at any given time. How is that working out? What are the difficulties? That you're finding just for other educators who are out there. That's true. We have about we're a small district. We only have about twenty, two, hundred students system wide good part. We're all on one campus with four schools on one campus we did decide. For. An option our our students could also choose to do all online and to do virtual learning. So when we say we brought in twenty percent, it's a little bit less than that because of those virtual learning students who are already online, but we did we stagger. So students are in school one day a week, and then they do digital learning the next four days until they come back to their in person day and it's worked out very well for US I can say. Got Of great feedback from parents teachers from other from administrators It does create some difficulty and you touched on that a second ago parents. It creates a difficulty for parents and I understand that and we want to be sensitive to that. But at the same time we thought why with the pressure to open, this is the only way that we could open safely and that was our first priority, and if if I know with contact tracing if a classroom if the student has positive. What happens in terms of quarantining D- do does the teacher they were in touch with does that person have to then leave school does the classroom what happens? Well. Again, because we open with such small numbers, it's very easy for classes to social distance and so Alvar staff are required to wear masks all times. Our students are not required. They six through twelve. We have strongly suggested that they wear and then pre K. through five. We have suggested that they wear if they're going to be in close groups. However. It's been good because most all students are wearing mask as well. But again, a classroom if a student test positive. There may only be for their students in that class right and they've been distance, and so when you do the contact tracing, what we have found is that very few of them have been in close contact for ten minutes or more within six feet of one another, and so the exposure has been very limited and most of the time both have on mass. So they can continue come to school and the teachers continue coming to school. Even though they they've. Been in the area of of a student, but not for a prolonged time. That's correct. Now, the student that tests positive obviously would corentin for fourteen days. Okay and and then anyone else that we find that may have been in close contact with that person and may have some exposure. They would also contain for the fourteen days. Brian's Brian the guidance for Best Practices for schools has been a moving target of both federal and state levels of Texas Office of in a hot spot for the virus in recent weeks how has that changed your plans and preparations have? It's changed dramatically when we surveyed our families in early June, we had about three quarters who indicated they wanted to come back for in person learning than we sent the same survey out in mid-july that was down more like a third, and so it has altered plans dramatically unfortunately in Texas we've had constantly shifting state. As well, and so I don't honestly know which version of the plan were on at this point I lost track a long time ago. But the the prevalence of the viruses. Shifted our plans but I feel good that we got a good plan on. Nimble plan. Going forward, and we'll be able to serve families either in the building or in distance learning well O'Brian woods and becky stone I appreciate can't imagine how difficult it is to be an educator right now and not appreciate all you're doing. Thank you very much.