New information on school COVID-19 cases

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 5:11 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Two Vermont school districts took different approaches after positive COVID-19 tests among their students. We know more about why one school closed and the other didn’t as well as contact tracing currently underway.

The positive cases at Hartford High School and the Crossett Brook Middle school in Duxbury were addressed at Tuesday’s press conference by the governor and state leaders. Being flexible, and having a plan were the two main takeaways.

“Although we anticipated having positive cases in our schools it is still very concerning,” said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French.

Over the weekend it was announced that two students at the Crossett Brook Middle School tested positive for the coronavirus. At Tuesday’s press conference, Vermont’s education secretary explained why the school is not open for in-person learning this week.

“The superintendent was faced with staffing availability issues that directly impacted the school’s ability to return to in-person instruction,” French said.

French says districts have the flexibility to make those calls. The superintendent in Hartford, however, took a different approach.

“We are very comfortable with our plan,” Superintendent Tom DeBalsi said.

After it was learned that a student tested positive at Hartford High School, that plan was put in motion. The facility was thoroughly cleaned and because the high school’s hybrid model essentially cuts the student population in half on any given day, the administration was able to easily document who was potentially at risk.

“Exactly who this student had come into contact with, what classes they were in, bathroom times,” DeBalsi said.

According to Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, zero close contacts at Hartford have been identified though the investigation is continuing.

“Of the 23 people identified so far as close contacts as Crossett Brook, we’ve reached out to all of them, providing recommendations and quarantining guidance,” Levine said.

And, while schools maybe have flexibility when it comes to their own COVID-19 action plans, the contact tracing process is uniform across the state.

“As I have said before, Vermont’s contract tracers are leading the nation by reaching 96% of the people within 24 hours,” Levine said.

Officials acknowledge it is likely more Vermont students will catch the virus.

Levine has three simple words of reassurance, “We are ready.”

French says all in all, the reopening of Vermont’s schools is going well. Health officials say everyone needs to be vigilant to keep in that way.

Related Story:

Two more Vermont schools with COVID-19 cases

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