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Wichita-area districts prepare for likelihood of more COVID-19 cases in schools

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 4:44 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With students gathering for summer camps, practices and workouts ahead of the 2020-2021 school year, Wichita area districts already have had to respond to several reports of positive COVID-19 tests among students and staff members. While there haven’t been any outbreaks associated with school-related activities, districts across the area are preparing for the inevitability that at some point during the year, someone in the schools will test positive for COVID-19.

“I mean, it’s definitely a risk, it’s just like during flu season or anything else. If you send your child to (school), there’s always that chance that you could become ill, but we are going to be doing what we can to mitigate that,” said Haysville Schools District Nurse Beth Schutte.

With cases in the Wichita school district confirmed at the middle-and-high-school levels, Wichita Public Schools Director of Safety and Environmental Services Terri Moses said it’s a matter of when not if schools in the district have to respond to more cases during the school year.

“...Every time we’ve brought more people back to work, we’ve seen more incidents where people have had to be tested because maybe they had a close contact at home. We’ve seen more incidents of isolation because they’ve traveled out of town. And now we’re seeing more incidents of positive COVID-19 cases,” Moses said.

In the Haysville and Wichita districts, Schutte and Moses say they’ll work to get information out as quickly as possible if your child is exposed to the virus at school. Schutte said the district is counting on teachers to have assigned seating in classrooms, which will make it easier to pinpoint exactly how close they were to a case if a classmate tests positive for COVID-19.

In Hutchinson, the school district’s public information officer, Ray Hemman said schools rely on the district’s nursing staff to guide them, as well as the Reno County Health Department.

The area districts said information about COVID-19 cases at the school will likely reach out parents of impacted students by a phone call, but the district will follow through to make sure the information is delivered so that parents who need to keep their children home and quarantined for a week and a half to two weeks can make plans to do so.

Wichita Public Schools said if a school becomes a “hot spot” for COVID-19 cases before the first day, the district will look to delay the start of school. The district outlined its comprehensive COVID-19 response plan on its website.

“That’s always been on the agenda for the (school) board. We’ve always said we have the ability to pivot,” Moses said. “We have made decisions all summer long and then we’ve had to adapt to those decisions. I think you’ve seen that on a nationwide basis, you’ve seen it on a statewide basis and at a local basis.”

You can find COVID-19 plans for your child’s school district here: Safety Plans for Kansas Schools.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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