Student mentor Yilda Yamilex Molina-Cruz, right, gives directions to senior Atziry Velazquez on the first day of school at North Salem High School on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
The Salem-Keizer School District has moved one kindergarten class to online instruction temporarily after a student tested positive for Covid, but has so far avoided large Covid outbreaks or mass quarantines two weeks into the school year.
As of Sept. 16, the district had recorded a total of 48 cases where a student with Covid was inside a school building, district spokesman Aaron Harada said. Another 99 students have been sent home to quarantine because they had close contact with another person who had Covid at school.
That's out of 38,825 students across the district in kindergarten through high school who are enrolled for in-person classes.
Harada said a kindergarten class at Chapman Hills Elementary will be moved online for one week starting Monday after a student came to school with Covid. That's because the district's health authority, which investigates Covid cases, determined that student was in close contact with enough classmates that it was both safer and more practical to move classes online. Kindergarten classes began Wednesday at most district schools.
The class accounts for 20 of the 43 elementary school students who the district has asked to quarantine.
Harada said Covid cases reported in schools have generally been isolated, and the Chapman Hills class is to date the only case of an entire class being asked to quarantine. District nurses are investigating two high school cases they believe may be linked to an athletic event, he said, but have otherwise not found evidence Covid has spread inside classrooms or at school events.
The school district follows state and federal quarantine guidelines, which say people fully vaccinated against Covid don't need to quarantine even if they're exposed to someone who's sick unless they show symptoms of illness. Unvaccinated students also don't need to quarantine if they were consistently at least three feet away from a sick classmate and both were wearing masks at all times, state guidelines say.
Districtwide, 28 employees who work in schools have tested positive for Covid since school began, and 17 more have been sent home to quarantine, Harada said.
District elementary schools so far have reported 17 Covid cases among students. Middle schools have six and high schools 25.
The district is working to create a dashboard on its website to regularly publish information about the number of Covid cases and quarantines at local schools, chief operations officer Mike Wolfe said.