A positive case of COVID-19 in a Marion Community Schools (MCS) student last week gave the district its first practice in contact tracing and communication, Superintendent Brad Lindsay said.

At a weekly press conference, Lindsay said a student athlete who had been practicing outdoors only on a MCS campus tested positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday, July 15. The student’s grade, age and the sport being practiced is not being released to protect the student’s privacy.

Lindsay said once the district was made aware of the positive test result, school officials sprung into action with Grant County Health Department officials to begin contact tracing any individual who had been 6 feet or closer to the student for 15 minutes or more, whether they were wearing a mask or not. As a result of contact tracing, seven other students and two coaches are halfway through a 14-day quarantine period, he said.

The single case in an outdoor setting shows how extensive the contact tracing, communication and cleaning efforts will need to be if or when a student or staff member is found to test positive during the school year, Lindsay said.

“Now just think if that had been in the regular school day inside our building. Then we would contact trace every class, every lunch, every bus route, every practice and contact trace and try to identify people that would’ve been within 6 feet or closer of the student or staff member that was identified COVID positive and then immediately the quarantine, the encouragement if you’re not feeling well to see primary care and also to go get tested,” Lindsay said. “So it really is a real challenge.”

Lindsay said while MCS and other county schools are offering fully online options for students, the district believes students are best served in person, so MCS will do the best it can to keep school buildings open. However, Lindsay said state guidelines mandate schools be shut down for two to five days after a positive case is found among staff or students, so there could potentially be a lot of transition back and forth between online and in-person instruction.

“So therefore, the Giant Online Academy at home learning is really essential because only through the online learning at this time can the learning be continued and nonstop,” he said. “Because as soon as on campus there’s a COVID case, there’s going to be a stop in a particular school or district or maybe in some classrooms, so that’s a real challenge we want everyone to know.”

Lindsay encouraged all staff, students and families to try to follow guidelines and precautions as closely as possible and said all county schools are working together with the Grant County Health Department to provide safe environments for learning.

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