We received a reader inquiry regarding how confirmed COVID-19 cases in classrooms are reported by the Edmonds School District, so we asked the district’s communications team about it.
Among the questions raised: Whether district staff was being transparent with the public about classes switching back to in-person learning after a positive case was detected. In addition, the reader wanted to know why the district changed its policy from being open about the number of cases in a school to only telling the affected class.
In response, District Communications Manager Harmony Weinberg said the district does not have any protocols in place to communicate all positive cases to families districtwide.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, district leadership initially used email to report positive cases, but now the district primarily uses an information dashboard to update families about reported cases, she said. The dashboard is updated each Monday with the latest number of cases reported in the district.
Weinberg explained that an early communication effort did involve sending emails to all district staff once after a positive case was determined, but district leadership — fearing that too many emails were being sent out — decided to scale back to just informing those directly impacted in the school. However, she added that they are currently considering changing switching back to the earlier method.
“We were worried people would say ‘You’re sending out too many emails,’ so we’re trying to find a balance to have a good clear system,” she said.
When a positive case is detected in a classroom, Weinberg said the district immediately contacts the health district for guidance, which she said differs from case to case. At the school building, contact tracing begins so the school can notify those who are affected, starting with those around the student or staff member who may need to quarantine, and then their families are notified. After those directly affected are alerted, the school principal will send out a notice to families with students enrolled in the school, Weinberg said.
“Once all that is figured out — which takes a lot of time when we’re trying to contact all these people — they let the (school) community know,” she said.
In response to concerns about entire classrooms having to quarantine for 14 days after an exposure, Weinberg said the district has had to temporarily switch students back to remote learning. However, she said that might no longer be the case for some as the district is in talks with the health district about new ways they could continue in-person learning after an exposure is reported in a classroom.
“We have nothing to hide,” she said.
–By Cody Sexton