By Randy Bergquist, Osakis Public Schools superintendent
As you may know, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health have guidelines set forth for handling COVID-19 related items in the school. I thought I would share with you the steps involved for each confirmed COVID-19 case we encounter in Osakis School and our responsibility.
First, we have to coordinate with the regional support team, which includes members of the Minnesota Department of Health, local public health, and our regional support team at Lakes Country Service Cooperative in Fergus Falls. School staff may hear about a positive test result from a staff member or parent/guardian before MDH does. We only report only when a person’s lab test is positive, and only when the person is a student or staff member who is attending or working in Osakis School. The Minnesota Department of Health monitors this secure reporting system and communication takes place with Osakis School after the completion of the following information for each confirmed positive COVID-19 case:
The name and phone number of the person who tested positive for Covid-19.
Contact information for the school with the designated contact person.
Name, address, city, zip code, and phone number.
Current learning model at the school where the person or student tested positive works or attends (In-person, hybrid, or distance learning).
Current total enrollment in the facility or program (Osakis PreK-12 is 840).
Current total number of staff at the facility or program (Osakis 135).
Total number of classrooms at the facility or program (Osakis 60).
Whether the location has had previous cases.
Whether the case is a child, student, attendee or staff member.
Work location of the staff member or what class/grade of the student.
The number of people in a shared classroom or shared office with the case.
The onset date of symptoms.
Whether the person worked at or attended the program or facility while they had symptoms.
Whether the person worked at or attended the program or facility during the two days before the onset of symptoms or a positive test.
Date(s) the person worked at or attended the school or program in the seven days before a symptom or date of positive test.
Numbers of students and staff identified as close contacts as well as their contact information.
The type of follow-up you are requesting from MDH: High priority/need help with contact tracing. Medium priority/have questions, but contact tracing is in progress. Low priority/contact tracing and/or exclusions completed by the school.
Once the form is completed and submitted for each positive COVID-19 case, the Minnesota Department of Health and local public health will reach out to discuss the situation based on the priority level identified in the form. The school’s designated staff will identify close contact, notify the close contacts, and determine next steps, which include the following:
Gather and review the student or staff member’s activity. This includes looking back two days from the date symptoms started or from the date, they tested positive if there were no symptoms.
Consider arrival and departure time (include all locations worked at or attended).
Bus route information and transportation attendance, carpool, and safe route walkers.
Class or work schedule, rosters, and seating charts.
Lunchtime, recess, extracurricular, and other activities.
The length of time the person who tested positive was on-site while potentially infectious.
Close contacts of the person throughout the day at school/work and/or home.
The classroom environment and activities of the person who tested positive (e.g., was the person part of a group the stayed together or a class, where classes or groups intermixing, etc.).
Evaluate if it is necessary to clean and disinfect spaces visited by the person who tested positive.
Osakis custodial staff, teachers, and other staff members complete cleaning on a daily basis to ensure that areas are sanitized for our students. As you can see, for each positive COVID-19 case, there is extensive information needed on the school’s part reporting to the Minnesota Department of Health to help with the containment of this virus. This work is tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as we hear about possible Covid-19 vaccinations. I am very much looking forward once again, to moving in the direction of in-person learning where students, staff, parents, and community members can once again enjoy how school was meant to be-in-person, face to face learning! I for one can honestly say this COVID-19 school pandemic is one I would like to forget in my time as an educator. We all miss the students and anxiously waiting for their return.