Aspen Cottage Preschool shuts down after positive COVID test; 4 students, 4 adults in quarantine
The Aspen School District closed its Cottage Preschool on Friday after officials learned a day earlier one of its students tested positive for COVID-19.
The tentative plan is to reopen the entire preschool, which is on the district campus and provides day care for children of faculty and staff, as well as the general public, on Sept. 8. It originally opened for the fall semester Aug. 19.
The preschooler had shown symptoms of the virus and the positive result came back late Thursday, new ASD superintendent David Baugh said Friday. Four students and four adults — three staff members and one parent — are under 14-day quarantine because they were part of the preschooler’s cohort or had been exposed to the child, Baugh said.
“They are quarantined and they are strongly encouraged to get COVID-19 tests,” he said.
School and public health officials met Friday and determined to keep the entire preschool closed out of “an abundance of caution,” Baugh said. The Cottage has five classrooms.
Contact tracing has begun and the district’s goal is to use a “box-it-in strategy” so that those in quarantine monitor their symptoms and get tested within one or two days of developing symptoms. People without symptoms seven days after exposure also are advised to get tested.
In a statement included in a school district news release about the closure, Pitkin County Public Health epidemiologist Josh Vance said: “We applaud the efforts and collaboration the school district put forth to work with our team to quickly identify the next steps that needed to be taken on this case.
“An interview with the infected patient was conducted within one hour of receipt of the case and all exposed persons were contacted within three hours of learning their names and getting their contact information. While a virus-free environment is always the goal, we have to remember that this is a pandemic and the virus isn’t going away anytime soon. We will have people show up to our schools with COVID-19, but if we can prevent further spread on our campuses, then we will have succeeded.”
Baugh said district officials will re-assess the situation Monday after following the progress of the infected student and those quarantined.
It is a matter members of the school community are watching closely. Aspen Elementary School is scheduled to begin in-person learning, through a cohort system, also on Sept. 8. Its students will be spread over the campus’s elementary, middle and high schools.
Middle and high school students began their online learning this week, with full-day classes beginning Monday. Baugh and school board president Susan Marolt said the preschooler and his or her family members are top of mind.
“We’re really thinking about the student and their family and we just wish a very speedy recovery,” Marolt said.
There are other concerns.
“It becomes quite complicated when you are looking at who needs to be quarantined and who needs to be contact traced,” Marolt said. “And that can be throughout the district because we are a small town and we are very interconnected and that becomes a part of the conversation, of how we can do this best.”
Baugh said closing the Cottage is an “aggressive” approach that Public Health supports.
Preschools follow similar pandemic guidelines as other schools when it comes to students infected with the virus.
In the instance of a single student testing positive, guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment include the following measures that the district has applied to the Cottage Preschool:
The infected student stays home until released from isolation (usually 10 days after symptom onset, 24-plus hours fever-free, and improving symptoms).
Class/cohort stays home for a 14-day quarantine dating from the last day that the child with confirmed COVID-19 attended class, after using a tool to determine if classmates or cohort members or close contacts of a sick person need to stay home.
Public health experts recommend testing of close contacts (seven days after exposure, or earlier if contact develops symptoms).
The Cottage’s closure has a major impact on families with preschoolers there, Baugh said.
“Day care is a huge challenge,” he said. “If one thing COVID has taught us, it is how important day care is to the working families.”
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Aspen Country Day School has had an interesting history as it reaches its 50th year of teaching the next generation.