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SafeOregon - School Safety Tip Line
September 27, 2021

Covid Update 9/8/2021 – Letters from Mr. Thielman

September 9, 2021

Dear Parents and Community,

We are experiencing some COVID cases among students, staff, and our local community at large.  Last week we had two coaching staff members test positive, and as of today we have a middle school student who is presumed positive.  As a result, middle school football has been cancelled for today in order to facilitate contact tracing/testing.  This new strain of COVID has demonstrated different behaviors than its predecessor, namely, it spreads more easily and moves toward symptoms faster.
When theses viral behaviors are added to the new mandate that public school remain open for in-person instruction the opportunity for increased spread is created.   In consultation with Benton County Health, I am reaching out to all our parents, families, and community stakeholders to help us move through the process of: prevention, identification, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine with as much communication and timeliness as possible.
1. Prevention:  Out of an abundance of caution, we are asking all our parents be very aggressive at monitoring for symptoms and keeping students AND siblings home if anyone is symptomatic, and seek testing (immediately if symptomatic and/or 3-5 days if not symptomatic).  We ask that you contact us and we can help facilitate testing, to include rapid testing with a school supplied BINEX Rapid Test for if needed/requested.  Early identification is one of our best tools to reduce the opportunity for school/community spread.
2. Identification:  The recommended testing method is a PCR test and/or a rapid test if symptomatic.  Please be aggressive about seeking testing for your symptomatic student, especially if they have been around a confirmed case, AND even if they are NOT considered a close contact (within 6 feet of a confirmed case for more than 15 minutes).  I am encouraging the same “abundance of caution” be applied for your student if they were in a setting in which they had repeated proximity within six feet of an identified positive case.  Close monitoring for symptoms, especially fatigue, and/or headache are most commonly reported first, before the more traditional “cold-like symptoms of sore throat, sneezing and sinus congestion occur, but any symptoms should give us pause to isolate and seek testing.
*** For repeated contact and/or you are unsure (this applies to a student who does not meet the close contact criteria of within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more of a positive case).  We are recommending the 3-5 day rule be applied, in which the parent keeps their student home and seeks testing within 3-5 days.  If test is negative and no symptoms after 3-5 days the student should be ok to consider a return to school/normal life activity.
3. Isolation: Early isolation of the suspected or symptomatic student pending testing results can help protect the rest of the household, as well as other students from spread.  We recognize that turn around times for test results s can vary, so please be patient and know that in a pinch we can supply you with a BINEX Rapid Test if needed.
4.  Contact Tracing:  Because we have had sports teams practicing, the number of potential contacts is increased and students do not always report being within six feet of a coach/contact or other players/students for 15 minutes or more.  To help us get good information, we are asking all our parents/guardians to follow up with their student and inquire about contacts to include “repeated contact within six feet.”  Please reach out to us if you suspect they may have had enough repeated exposure to warrant testing, 3-5 rule isolation, or quarantine.
5.  Quarantine:   This step in the COVID protocol is different for Vaccinated verses Un-Vaccinated, which has created both confusion and concern for many parents who are accustomed to one standard.  As mention previously:
Regarding Unvaccinated: Exposed to a positive or symptomatic person: Quarantine for 14 days, testing at day 5-7 or sooner if symptomatic. If positive test, quarantine turns into isolation.  
 
Vaccinated Staff & Students: Are allowed at school if asymptomatic, we recommend testing immediately, with a PCR not BINEX, then test again with a PCR 3-5 days after the positive case’s isolation date. If the initial test was negative then they would be allowed to still attend school. 
What should we expect?  We must expect that we will have positive cases present, both at school, after school, and out in the broader community, as we move through the year.   If we all remain focused and vigilant, we can minimize the risks and keep case counts to a minimum.   We have already learned a lot about how to meet this new challenge and we now have better tools, such as rapid testing, to help us apply the above protocol more efficiently.  Working together helps all of us stay safe.
I am truly sorry for the many changes we are experiencing this year verses last year.  A lot of these changes are policy decisions imposed by OHA to effect the desired outcome that schools remain open for in-person instruction -if possible.  Staying open will mean keeping COVID spread to a minimum (no more than three cases traced to a single source).  In order to accomplish this outcome, we will all need to adjust our expectations to fit with the changing viral behaviors presented by Delta.
Thank you so much for all the feedback and constructive outreach.  Our parents and families are our best allies in this engagement.  As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns by emailing me directly at marc.thielman@alsea.k12.or.us or at 509-220-5313.  Go Wolverines!!!
Sincerely,

Marc Thielman

Alsea Superintendent