SPOONER– Schools have been anticipating that some of their staff and students might come down with COVID-19, and Spooner Area School District was notified over a four-day period, September 29-October 2, that three middle school students had tested positive.

With all three cases, the district said it followed the direction of the Washburn County Health Department and excluded the students from on-campus activities until they were no longer infectious. Students and staff who “interacted closely” with them were given instructions by the health department, and “close contacts,” those within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes while the students are infectious, will be quarantined for 14 days past the last exposure and will monitor for symptoms.

After the third student tested positive, “out of an abundance of caution,” a district statement said on Friday, all middle school students were to learn remotely on Tuesday (Monday was an in-service day). Wednesdays are remote learning days for all students, and all on-campus students were to return to class on Thursday.

Because of proximities on the school bus, the students who were excluded temporarily from in-person learning came from all three of the district’s schools.

District Nurse Sarah Hamilton summarized for the school board the COVID-19-related activities for September and said that the first case on September 29 resulted in the exclusion of 28 students through October 12. The report listed a total of 82 students and two staff members excluded on September 30. Additional students and staff had been excluded at various times throughout the month.

“It is very possible for an infectious student or staff member to attend school prior to realizing they are symptomatic,” Hamilton said. She explained that people are considered infectious 48 hours before they are symptomatic or before they test positive. Combine that with the time it takes to process the tests, and the school was notified of the exposures four days after the last exposure.

“Throughout the community, due to processing time for test results and health department capabilities, it is not uncommon at this time for close contacts not to be notified for a week or more after their last exposure,” Hamilton said.

She also noted in her report that a benefit of keeping the middle school students in one consistent “cohort” group all day under the current Level 2 of the district’s reopening plan is that only those in the positive student’s cohort would have to be excluded – but all of them would be since they are not socially distanced. Nor are they socially distanced on the buses.

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