Strawberry Park students will spend the week learning remotely due to COVID-19 cases
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Strawberry Park Elementary School will spend this week on a fully remote learning plan due to the quarantining of 35 students and 18 staff members.
The students and staff will return to school after the holiday break, as Friday is the last day of school for Steamboat Springs students.
There were two positive COVID-19 cases among students last week, and one reported Sunday, said Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks.
But it’s the staff shortage that prompted the decision as much as anything, Meeks said. While they have been able to recruit some new substitutes, having to quarantine 18 staff members makes it very difficult to ensure all classrooms are covered, he said.
With a positive case at Steamboat Springs Middle School reported last week, there are currently 45 students in quarantine but just one middle school staff member as a result.
It is easier at the middle school level for teachers to limit their physical proximity to students as well as duration of time spent with them, as the middle school teachers are not with the same students for the entire day, Meeks said.
“Existing staff will rotate in when there are not enough substitutes to cover that day — whoever can go into that classroom to keep it moving,” Meeks said. “That’s been a real challenge. On any given day, we might be six subs short across the district.”
And while the district continues to recruit, the process of becoming a substitute can take time, he said, and get delayed by things like scheduling fingerprinting.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed quarantine guidelines, allowing for 10- and seven-day quarantines as long as certain conditions are met, Meeks said when he asked public health officials about shortening quarantine guidelines, he was told state agencies are still refining guidelines for schools, and at this time, the quarantine length must remain at 14 days.
Meeks said rapid testing is now available for staff across the district.
There are no students or staff currently in quarantine at Steamboat Springs High School or Soda Creek Elementary School, Meeks said.
After the high school students returned from their temporary shift to remote learning following the Halloween party incident, Meeks said they were happy to back in the building.
“I certainly hope there were a lot of lessons learned there,” Meeks said. “That this is serious and can spread quickly, and we have to be cautious.”
While there have been a number of quarantines since the school year started, Meeks said to the best of his knowledge the district is not seeing any transmission occurring in school.
“I give credit to the students and staff for adhering to the protocols very well,” he added. “I really appreciate that.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Sheila Symons’ son got COVID-19 around Labor Day. He has since missed about five weeks of school, spent five days at Children’s Hospital in Aurora and has seen more doctors than an 11-year-old child should.