How local school districts are managing Covid-19 quarantines, contact tracing

TALENT, Ore.- After three tested positive for Covid-19, approximately 100 Talent Middle School students are now having to quarantine for up to 14 days. The school year there started just a week ago today.

Quarantining around 100 students is not an easy decision, but according to Phoenix-Talent Superintendent Brent Barry, it’s just part of their protocol.

“We know this is super tough on students, families, staff, and not something we want to do but its something that is necessary,” he explained. After three Talent Middle School students tested positive for Covid-19, the school is having to quarantine almost 20 percent of its student body. The protocol for responding to a case, is a combination of state guidelines, and input from county health officials.

“Unfortunately it just really spread to a lot of potential exposures and out of abundance of caution, we were making sure we were doing our thing in consultation with Jackson County Health,” Barry said.  Part of that guidance, is that some close contacts do not have to quarantine under certain circumstances.

It’s something Talent Middle School is sorting through now, and could lessen the amount of student who have to quarantine.

“We reach out to our families and ask if they have been fully vaccinated to let us know, or if they have proof of contracting Covid-19 in the past 90 days,” Brent Barry said.

At the Medford School District, they work with county health officials on each and every case.

“We do have a contact with the county so when we have a case, we are able to discuss the specifics of the case. So was the student exposed in the classroom or outside, was it during a football practice or was recess involved? What were the specifics?” MSD’s Natalie Hurd explained.

Hurd also explained that the suggested quarantine for a student who was exposed but isn’t show symptoms drops down to just 10 days, rather than 14.

Many districts like MSD have their own covid dashboard, where you can see how many active cases there are and at what schools. MSD also notifies families of every case in each school, part of it’s goal to be transparent.

“We are seeing cases of Covid-19, here’s where they are, and we are not trying to hide anything,” Hurd said of the district’s communication efforts.

Other school districts with covid dashboards include Ashland and Grants Pass. Phoenix-Talent School District says they may have one soon… But not currently.

Part of a recent change in state policy is if students are masked up and distanced, they don’t have to quarantine even if they are a close contact.

“Its really cut down on the number of kids we’ve had to quarantine. And the state of Oregon did that because they are really trying to keep kids in in-person instruction as much as possible,” Hurd said.

And that’s the goal: to help keep kids in the classroom.

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