Our reason for creating the comprehensive Return to the Ledge (RTTL) plan is simple. We heard you. In the parent/guardian survey taken this summer, the results of which can be seen by clicking here, it was obvious that your overwhelming desire is to keep your children learning in-person as often as possible. Fortunately, survey results from staff and faculty revealed that we are in alignment, and our desire is to also have in-person learning occur as much as possible.
You are committed to this and so are we.
We know you recognize the complexity that results in bringing all of our Ledgers back under one roof. The RTTL outlines our combined efforts to reduce transmission on the Ledge. One of the ways this is done is through the use of masks. Another is quarantining students who are in close contact with a positive case (6 feet or less for 15 minutes or more). In light of an uptick in recent positive cases (you can see cases on the Ledge by clicking here), we have experienced a subsequent uptick in student exposures resulting in quarantine.
We understand the frustration that contact tracing outcomes (quarantine) may cause. We know that you continue to social distance, wear your mask, avoid gatherings, and do all the right things to reduce risk to you and your family. Yet, you still find your child needing to quarantine because of exposure in school. It can be especially frustrating when your child is quarantined and has no symptoms. We know, we feel it too. However, you can be a carrier (asymptomatic) and spread the virus without even knowing it! Hence, our commitment per the RTTL, to quarantine close contacts in an effort to reduce transmission on the Ledge.
Do know, the staff and I have spent a significant amount of time the past few weeks fielding calls from parents/guardians who are frustrated and concerned that their child has to quarantine (maybe even quarantine for a second time). I wanted to take a moment to provide clarification regarding the protocols that we, and other area school districts, are held to in partnership with the Fond du Lac County Health Department as it relates to contact tracing and subsequent quarantine.
The contact tracing and quarantine process and protocols are required per Fond du Lac County, State of WI Health Department, and CDC guidelines. These are used by all district area schools (see FCHD Exposure and Symptoms Guidance – Flow Charts). Per the Department of Health Services (DHS), close contact is defined as:
Anyone who was within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period (not 15 minutes continuous), starting from:
Two days before the positive case developed symptoms.
Two days before their positive test, if the individual did not have symptoms.
Or someone who:
Had direct physical contact with the person who tested positive, including but not limited to a hug or a handshake.
Came into contact with the person’s respiratory secretions, including but not limited to exposure to cough or sneeze droplets; contact with a used tissue; or sharing a drinking glass, towel, or other personal item.
This definition applies even if protective measures, such as face coverings, face shields, or physical barriers were used. These measures significantly reduce the spread of COVID, but do not negate the need for quarantine if this criteria is met.
- When a positive case has been confirmed, our SMSA team consisting of pupil services personnel including our school nurse, front office administrative staff, and academic administration, begins to immediately gather exposure data based on seating charts and in consultation with appropriate teachers and staff. Recognizing that this situation is new and that our process will require continual refinement, we work to confirm information, conducting subsequent checks and balances to verify findings.
Whenever conflicting information arises – or there is a lack of clarity in confirming “close contact” (6 feet or less for 15 minutes or more) – we slow the steps to make sure we have all necessary information before proceeding. If we are unable to agree on a clear resolution, our process defaults to the safety standard of “abundance of caution,” quarantining those students on which we lack clarity regarding close contact status.
It is important to note that we are never at liberty to confirm the name/identity of any student or employee who has tested positive for coronavirus (students medical information is protected by FERPA, employee medical information is protected by HIPAA). Schools are accountable to both of these federal laws.
Please know that as our partners, we recognize that our students may feel that they have all the relevant information about a given exposure to make an informed decision – especially one that involves them personally. We are finding that this can be a faulty assumption as our numbers continue to rise and multiple exposure points are being identified.
It is my hope that this helps provide some insight and context as to how we are required to conduct contact tracing, recognizing that choosing to be in-person five days per week does impact exposures. The health department continues to track positive cases and exposures to assess if transmission is occurring within our school as this is critical to remaining open for in-person learning. As indicated in the RTTL, we are prepared to transition to virtual, if necessary, but will do everything in our power, and know you will too, to allow your family the flexibility to continue to choose face-to-face or virtual instruction based on your needs. Please understand this may involve a quarantine you and your child don’t agree with.
We truly appreciate your support and compliance with these necessary and equally challenging health and safety protocols. Please join us in praying that we are soon able to return to school the way we all know and love! We, too, would much prefer to spend less time contact tracing and more time educating!
For the kids,