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MMSD parent, student express COVID-19 concerns as school resumes

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:21 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Parents and guardians are expressing concerns of COVID-19 in the classroom after Madison East High School families got a letter saying at least one person in the school tested positive for the virus.

District spokesperson Tim LeMonds said there are currently no cases of what is defined as an “outbreak” in any MMSD school, but not all parents are convinced.

“I’m kind of freaking out,” Frannie, a Madison East High School parent said.

“I just don’t want people to think it’s okay to be careless about this whole situation,” Frannie’s son Ry, an East High Junior said.

Frannie is concerned about her child Ry being back in the classroom.

“I’m really worried,” Frannie said. “I have a younger child who is not able to get a vaccine and we don’t like to take those kinds of chances in my house.”

Frannie’s worries began Wednesday night, when she got a letter from the high school that said, “at least one person tested positive for COVID -19.”

Frannie was not notified Ry needed to quarantine due to close contact, but she has other concerns.

“I can’t be sure that other people aren’t getting sick with COVID right now and just not reporting it to the school,” Frannie said. NBC15 checked the MMSD COVID-19 Dashboard and reached out to the school district.

Over the last two weeks, 45 total positive COVID-19 cases district-wide were reported.

However, MMSD media contact LeMonds says the data only shows up for each school if there are seven or more students who tested positive in that particular building.

LeMonds says right now, no school fits that bill. However, the MMSD Dashboard shows there are 39 East High School students who are in quarantine after exposure at a football game.

“It’s sad, because it was the first time we could all finally go together and there’s still so much going on with the world,” Ry said. “It’s not to be taken lightly.

Frannie and Ry say they are still also concerned about teens following masking and social distancing rules, as the Delta variant circulates. “When they go in, they are at risk of getting sick and getting their family members sick,” Frannie said.

LeMonds added there is currently “no evidence of transmission” within any school. Any exposures are coming from outside school walls.

Here is a list of parental questions and MMSD’s answers to each:

Below MMSD has addressed the concerns raised in the email NBC15 forwarded to the district Thursday morning. MMSD’s answers to each question are in bold:

I’m a parent of a student at East High in Madison. We got an email last night saying that there is “at least” one positive case of COVID in the building (this is the link they sent us). I’ve made numerous attempts to reach the school nurse, school counselors, and the principal, but the majority of the East voicemails are not functional, and my emails to them are not getting responses.

· A letter to families sent on Sept. 2 clearly and thoroughly explains how families would be notified and next steps. It also explains the rationale behind the level of detail we are allowed to share. All answers to this parent’s questions can be easily accessed by visiting the MMSD website at mmsd.org/covid. In addition, this information has also been provided in our family newsletters.

Here’s what I do know from what my student has told me:

1. students are packed in classrooms closer than 3 feet in some cases

· In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing.

2. teachers are NOT enforcing proper mask use, and in every classroom there are kids wearing their masks under their noses

· Staff continue to monitor adherence to all safety mitigation measures in school buildings. There is a progressive discipline policy for students and staff who do not follow our safety protocols.

3. there are multiple students absent this week who are sick and have not yet gotten COVID tests (my child, whose classmate was sick and throwing up in school, confirmed that they are still very sick, and still not getting tested)

· We cannot force students to be tested for COVID. If a student is quarantined because they were identified as a close contact to someone with COVID-19 or because they have symptoms of illness, they will need to quarantine for the full 10-day period UNLESS they choose to get tested on day 6 or 7. In that case, they could end their quarantine earlier than day 10.

4. I have asked school staff if there is a way to switch to virtual class so as to minimize exposure now that an outbreak may be happening, and have been told NO

· There is currently no incident of what would be defined as an “outbreak” in any MMSD school. In addition, there is currently no evidence of COVID transmission in any of our schools.

· There is currently no virtual option for high school students.

· Per protocol, close contacts are quarantined if not vaccinated nor having symptoms. The identification of close contacts in a school setting is not an indication of in-school transmission or an “outbreak” nor a covid positive case.

5. East sends out daily screeners to be filled in by caregivers asking if our student was exposed to someone with Covid, but unfortunately the school will not give us straight answers as to whether they were exposed to students who are currently out sick and awaiting test results

· If a student is identified as a close contact, MMSD Health Office staff will notify families as quickly as possible. Anyone who would need to know this information for their child’s safety will be notified.

· Additionally, privacy laws prohibit us from sharing protected health information, including whether someone has tested positive for COVID-19, whether someone is a close contact, or whether someone has been vaccinated.

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