As the burdens of contact tracing grow, school district allows at-home PCR tests
A new school year continues to bring new challenges to the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) in dealing with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to data from the school district’s website, during the 2020-2021 school year the district tested 4,684 people for the virus.
Of those tested, the district had to deal with 57 positive cases.
As of September 16, the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the school district tested 470 people, with 18 people testing positive and 11 active cases.
“The continuation of the COVID-19 virus through the start of the school year was expected, but not to this extent,” CVSD Superintendent Rene Sanchez said to the CSVD Board of Directors at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21. “To students and families: we intend to provide the same or similar school year as had we had before in 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic had prevented us from doing so. We are still adapting, and we are learning what needs to be done to help mitigate the spread of the virus.”
Sanchez said that several essential tenets have been put into place for the school district when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus, including wearing masks, washing hands, cohort grouping, seating charts, students eating in classrooms or outside, and vaccinations for grades 7 through 12.
“The virus perpetuates in the school and out into the community,” Sanchez said. “Contact tracing has proved time-consuming and challenging. What once was done by the state last year, our campus leaders are currently doing it.”
Sanchez said that it takes substantial time and effort for campus personnel to track down close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.
“However, there is some hope on the horizon,” he offered. “The state hopes to cut down the number of students who have to quarantine, along with the time they have to quarantine.”
He said the school district is one of the first in the state to allow students to take the at-home Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. The tests can be found at various drug stores.
“Once a student is identified as a close contact, they will be able to take the test, and then send it to a laboratory via UPS without having to go to a test site,” he said. “A second option that has come out from the state is that contact tracing could be limited when schools have a vaccination rate above 80 percent.”
Sanchez said that the school district is currently collecting vaccination information voluntarily from school families and staff.
“It might take us a few weeks for the school district to reach the 80 percent vaccination rate,” he said. “But this rate could come about faster as Vermont is one of the states that are likely to follow President Biden’s OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] requirements for federal workers to vaccinate or get tested.”
Sanchez added that the school district is continuing to review its mitigation efforts and instructional practices.
“We believe that the delta variant will still be in our state for at least the next month,” he said. “However, we continue to do our best to provide instruction and safe learning at our schools.”