Cherry Creek schools will no longer send letters to elementary school families when students are in a classroom with a positive COVID-19 case, according to the district.
As of early January, the district was notifying families when individual elementary classrooms had a positive case.
For middle and high schools, the district was sending weekly case counts each Friday.
“We will be switching to weekly notifications of elementary schools, with a tally of student and staff cases for the week, just as we do at the middle and high school levels,” Abbe Smith, district spokesperson, said on Feb. 3.
“So starting Monday, elementary, middle and high schools will receive weekly emails on Friday with the number of cases at their child’s school, if there are any,” Smith said.
For a look at how the district has changed its approach to sending notifications about COVID cases over time, see the Centennial Citizen’s previous story here.
The district’s letter added: “We will continue to keep our data tracker on the website updated with cases that are reported to us and have an impact on the school. For a more complete picture of how many COVID-19 cases we have in our community, please visit the Tri-County Health Department website.”
Cases that impact a school are cases that cause someone or a group of people to need to quarantine, spokesperson Smith said. See the district’s tracker website here.
“From county data and our tracking, we know that COVID-19 is present in our community,” the letter said. “We also know that the COVID-19 data tracker on our website is not an accurate reflection of the true number of cases in our community.”
The district cited the following reasons why:
• “We work diligently to track every case, but many cases are not reported to us,” the letter said.
• The lack of access to rapid home tests and the delay in PCR (COVID) test notifications makes it hard to confirm a positive case.
• Some choose to stay home with symptoms instead of testing.
• With the shortened isolation guidelines, many students have returned from isolation by the time the district is notified.
On the heels of Tri-County Health Department moving to let the mask mandates for schools and public indoor places in Adams and Arapahoe counties expire on Feb. 5, the Cherry Creek School District announced it would not enforce a mandate at the district level.
Starting Feb. 7, masks will be “strongly encouraged” but not required for students and staff, a letter to the community from Superintendent Christopher Smith said.
“We realize that for some members of the community this decision about masks is disappointing and for other community members it is a welcomed message,” Smith wrote. “As we have stated from the beginning, we continue to follow the guidance of TCHD.”
The letter added: “Please note, the CDC still requires all passengers and drivers of school buses to wear a mask. We will communicate if and when this order changes.”
The changes in local mask policy come as the school district and broader community continue to see sharp decreases in the numbers of reported COVID-19 cases, the letter said.
“Please help us continue this trend by keeping students home when they are sick and not returning to school until symptoms have greatly resolved,” Smith wrote.
During the meeting of Tri-County’s board of health on Jan. 31 — where the board voted to let the mask mandates expire — concerns arose about students who are at higher risk of illness from COVID.
“We will continue to increase ventilation in schools, clean high-touch surfaces and emphasize hand washing,” Smith’s letter said.
Since the start of the pandemic, the district has used existing systems to circulate more air through buildings, according to Abbe Smith, district spokesperson.
“We run our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems for additional time to increase the number of times the air is exchanged over the course of a day,” spokesperson Smith said. She added: “Also, at the beginning of the pandemic, we installed MERV 13 filters in all schools.”
The school district has ordered at-home rapid COVID tests to distribute to families and staff of symptomatic people, according to the letter. The district was waiting to receive the tests and was to send more information when they arrive, the letter said.
The district emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated, staying home when sick, getting tested, and following guidance on isolation.
People who have tested positive for COVID should isolate, according to the state public health department. Those who have symptoms of COVID and are waiting for test results — or have symptoms and have not been tested yet — should also isolate.
Isolation means staying at home and away from other people until a person is likely no longer contagious, according to the health department. See more details on isolation here.
No-cost COVID tests continue to be available through an initiative called COVIDCheck Colorado — see locations at the link — and through health care providers, the school district’s letter said.
The district's COVID test site at its Instructional Support Facility near Eaglecrest High School in the east Centennial area is still providing testing, spokesperson Smith said.
Amid the rise of the delta variant, the Cherry Creek district in August announced it would require masks for all students in pre-K through sixth grade and the staff who work with them.
Soon after, Tri-County issued its own school mask mandate, an order that required masks for all people age 2 and older in schools and child-care settings in Adams and Arapahoe.
The more-contagious nature of the omicron variant recently fueled sky-high rates of new cases while at the same time causing less-severe illness than the earlier delta variant. The spike in new cases has been followed by “a fairly dramatic drop,” Dr. John Douglas, the head of Tri-County Health, said during the Jan. 31 board of health meeting.
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