Two days after Maricopa Unified School District had to close down an elementary school, three new cases of COVID-19 were reported at the high school.
That has led to the quarantine of 233 students and 12 staff members.
Since the beginning of the school year, there have been 13 cases at MUSD. In addition, there have been several circumstances of students and adults being exposed to the virus and having to quarantine.
“A day does not go by that a staff member, whether pool or department, doesn’t notify us of someone who was exposed and has to quarantine – which is different than having a positive case in our school,” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman told the governing board Wednesday.
Typically, if someone has been around a person for more than 15 minutes within 24 hours, they need to be quarantined. Those minutes can be accumulated throughout the day.
The first case of COVID in MUSD was while all students were distance learning and affected only high school sports teams. The first case after the return to in-person classes caused the quarantine of 186 students at the high school. The next time MHS had a reported case, only 83 students had to be quarantined.
Lopeman said that was a case of getting smarter and the use of seating charts to track students.
On Wednesday, however, two COVID cases at MHS caused the biggest quarantine yet. At the same time, another staff member at Saddleback reported contracting the virus.
Lopeman said she was grateful to parents and staff for self-reporting.
“Our ability to respond quickly is connected to how forward our staff and parents are with communication,” she said. “They have been wonderful. We can’t respond if we don’t know. It’s uncomfortable to have to reveal this information to anyone, but it’s the only way we can respond quickly and effectively.”
MUSD is keeping in close contact with Pinal County’s health department.
Lopeman noted a change in the application of the state benchmarks. At the beginning of the year, failing to meet one of three benchmarks would keep a school from returning to in-person classes. Now, failure is only if all three benchmarks are not met, and a school would be encouraged to return to all distance-learning.
Staff members who are quarantined but not ill can teach remotely as the district covers the classroom. Quarantines are 14 days as the district follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Board member Torri Anderson said the board might look at creating a set protocol for teachers and not rely on them to report feeling randomly ill or not. She said the district needed to draw a hard line.
“This is going to keep spreading and spreading and spreading,” she said. “And I just want to look at the end of the year. I want a regular graduation. I want regular celebrations. So, I would rather be overly cautious now so we can have a normal end of the school year.”