HCCSC talks COVID-19 cases and closure scenarios

As HCCSC students and staff plan to return to school on August 5, the board of trustees met with health officials to discuss potential COVID-19 cases and related closures.

Public Health Nurse Emily Schamehorn says the Huntington County Health Department has been working closely with HCCSC board members to come up with a safe reentry plan. Schamehorn noted that while it’s important to keep students healthy and safe, it’s also important to keep students on track.

HCCSC Superintendent Chad Daugherty says the reentry plan is fluid and could change very quickly if necessary. According to Schamehorn, the infection rate is not as bad as it could be in Huntington County.

“If at some point we see a rise in cases or see a lot of cases are coming from the school corporation or are being spread in the school corporation or if we see that there’s a low attendance rate we can close the schools,” Schamehorn said.

Closing schools or shutting down a classroom will depend on how well students are social distancing, handwashing and following other mitigation tactics against COVID-19 including wearing protective face masks.

“If we are socially distancing our students properly, if we do have a student who becomes positive, it’s a possibility that we would only have to close a classroom for a couple of days to clean it instead of closing a whole school,” Schamehorn said.

In the event of a student testing positive for COVID-19, the Health Department will quarantine close contacts (anyone within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or longer)

“That’s why we try to distance our students as much as we can in the classroom,” said Schamehorn.

Typically when a person tests positive, the case will go to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) contact tracing team. The team will call the infected person and contact people who may have been around them and have them quarantined for 14 days.

In the event of an HCCSC student or staff member testing positive, the school would likely be one of the first to know, Schamehorn says.

“In that instance, the schools would be calling me and say ‘I have a positive student or I have a positive staff member’,” Schamehorn said.

The Health Department would then work with the school to determine where the staff member worked or which building the student attended and find out the last day they were present as a start.

Unlike some states, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is making reentry plans based on local decisions, rather than a statewide plan, according to Daugherty.

“The one thing that the Indiana Department of Education has expressed to us is they are going to make this a local decision rather than making this a state mandated decision.”

HCCSC plans to begin the 2020-2021 school year as scheduled, with the first student day beginning on Wednesday, August 5th.