COVID-19 Cases in CMCSS Schools
September 16, 2020
Total Positive Cases, Quarantines, and Exclusions:
In the weeks since school has been in session for the 2020-21 school year, CMCSS has had 22 positive student or employee COVID-19 cases that involved close contacts at a school; 3 in high schools, 8 in middle schools, and 11 at elementary schools. These positive cases have led to 139 student or employee quarantines issued by the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD). CMCSS does not have the authority to quarantine students and the district does not control the requirements, expectations, communication, etc. about quarantines. The district does get notifications from MCHD of which students/employees are quarantined and their return-to-school/work date so this can be input in the student information system for attendance purposes. CMCSS does have the authority to exclude students from school, and will, on behalf of MCHD when communication assistance is needed, send an exclusion (not quarantined) message to families (explained below). CMCSS does not have the authority to exclude students of potential close contacts from anything other than school or school-based activities; MCHD has to make the determination if they need to quarantine at home. Over the past few weeks, CMCSS has excluded 406 students/employees from school while MCHD conducted contact tracing. Those who were not deemed close contacts by MCHD generally returned to school the next school day.
Communicating Positive Case and Quarantine Numbers:
The Tennessee Department of Education has released a dashboard to help track cases at the local level. TDOE updates this dashboard weekly. For schools reporting under five positive student or employee COVID-19 cases, the school is listed without a specific number of cases for the category. CMCSS has not reached that threshold. CMCSS also is working on its district dashboard to share daily updates, which will be launched in the coming days. To protect the privacy of individuals, only as appropriate, allowable by law, and in compliance with FERPA will CMCSS share additional information with the public, including specific schools. A specific concern regarding FERPA is under “personally identifiable information” which includes “other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that will allow a reasonable person in the school community to identify the student with reasonable certainty.” Since CMCSS is currently experiencing a smaller number of cases and only has around 60% of students learning in a traditional, in-person setting, there is an increased risk that a school community member could identify a student. District leaders will continue to review guidance from the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Education and may be able to share additional information in the future. However, it is important to note that potential close contacts, both students (parents/guardians) and employees, do receive direct communication and guidance.
Communicating with Close Contacts:
CMCSS and MCHD follow the protocols of the Tennessee Department of Health in conducting contact tracing and communicating with stakeholders. After a positive case is confirmed and communicated to the school or district from MCHD or from a parent/guardian with physical evidence, the CMCSS Safety and Health Department guides a school in developing a list of close contacts to the confirmed positive. Close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. That list is provided to MCHD so they can conduct contact tracing and advise CMCSS on next steps, including any necessary classroom or school-wide closures. Only MCHD can quarantine students.
Parents/guardians of close contacts are contacted by MCHD. In cases where MCHD needs additional time to conduct contact tracing, CMCSS assists MCHD in contacting parents/guardians of students who may have been in close contact with the confirmed positive since the district can expedite the process through a mass notification system or through additional staff at the school level. The following is a sample of the exclusion script that parents would receive in these cases:
Dear Parent or Guardian,
This call is to notify you that a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at <<SCHOOL NAME>> and we have identified your child <<FIRST NAME>> <<LAST NAME>> as a potential close contact of that individual.
The Montgomery County Health Department will contact you if your child requires quarantine. Contact tracing by the Montgomery County Health Department may take 24 hours or longer, so you may not receive a call today. Please do not send your child back to school until you receive further information from the Montgomery County Health Department or a notification to return to school from the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System on behalf of the health department.
If your child becomes ill, contact your medical provider for guidance.
CMCSS understands that you may have questions and concerns; however, we are not able to share any additional information. If you have COVID-19 related questions, please contact the Montgomery County Health Department at 931-648-5747.
CMCSS has implemented several health and safety protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19:https://www.cmcss.net/blog/2020/07/24/cmcss-traditional-model-safety-and-health-overview/
It is extremely important that all students, employees, and the community self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to visiting any CMCSS facility. Additionally, it is extremely important that parents/guardians do not send their child to school if they are awaiting results of a COVID-19 test or are exhibiting a new on-set of symptoms related to COVID-19. Please review the updated Return-to-Work/School Flowchart: https://portal.cmcss.net/iso.aspx?doc=SAF-W001.pdf