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School quarantines pinch staffing, send Riverside to completely online

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

As part of public health’s school investigations:

• Individuals diagnosed are being kept home from school until they are no longer infectious.

• Individual’s activities when they could have spread COVID-19 have been assessed.

• The people who were close contacts of the person with COVID-19 have been instructed to stay home from school for 14 days after the exposure. This means they should not go to school, playdates, sports, church or extracurricular events for the full 14-day period.

• Parents/caregivers of a child in quarantine are considered “contacts of a contact” and are not required to quarantine. However, parents need to continue to monitor their family’s symptoms.

• Facilities and custodial crews will use the time during the Riverside closure to complete a deep-clean and disinfecting of schools.

• Riverside Middle School continues to offer a drive-through meal pick-up option. Families can contact call 970-665-7800 by 9 a.m. daily if they would like to pick up meals. Drive-through meals will be available from 11 a.m. to noon.

Source: Garfield County Public Health and Garfield Re-2 School District

Several K-12 classrooms in Garfield County and one entire school begin November on quarantine and completing their studies online instead of in person. It’s a situation that is starting to impact in-building staffing levels amid substitute teacher and bus driver shortages, as well.

Garfield Re-2 District officials announced Saturday that Riverside Middle School in New Castle will transition to 100% online learning Monday in light of nearly half the students being directly impacted by recent COVID-19 cases, and exacerbated by a substitute teacher shortage.

In a news release Saturday, the district said it does not believe there is transmission within the school, but that about 41% of students and 25% of staff at Riverside were directly impacted. That means they are considered close contacts with individuals who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Elsewhere, classrooms at Glenwood Springs Middle School, Glenwood Elementary and Crystal River Elementary in Carbondale also are on quarantine status due to confirmed or suspected cases.

The news comes as Garfield County as a whole is seeing a major spike in the number of new COVID cases, with the test positivity rate now at 8.4% and a case rate per 100,000 people topping 290 and placing the county at “concerned” to “very high risk” for disease spread.

“This weekend, Garfield Re-2 School District was informed by the Garfield County Department of Public Health of individuals that are confirmed to have COVID-19, or who have COVID-19 like symptoms or illness within the Riverside family,” the district’s release states. “These cases are not related.”

The lack of available instruction staff, a substitute teacher shortage and previously scheduled absences resulted in the need to transition all instruction at the school to online learning through Nov. 10. In-person instruction is slated to resume Nov. 11.

“We have looked at this situation in every way possible and have determined that we do not have the resources to continue in-person instruction until our staff is released from quarantine on Nov. 11,” Garfield Re-2 Superintendent Heather Grumley said in the release. “The shortage of substitute teachers in Garfield Re-2 has a significant contribution to the decision to pivot Riverside Middle School to online learning.”

A critical shortage of bus drivers also means that the “Butterfly Bus Route” will be suspended until Nov. 11. The “rabbit” bus was also impacted but will continue service.

In total, the recent COVID-19 cases have resulted in 244 students, 15 staff members and five schools being directly impacted.

“The schools have been doing an incredible job working to keep all students and staff well and safe. Due to the swift actions of the staff and administration, we have not seen transmission in the school,” said Yvonne Long, Garfield County Public Health director, in the news release.

“It is important for our schools to remain open and students attend in person as much as possible. A situation such as this affects so many in our community, thank you all for keeping families and kids safe,” she added.

GSMS transitions 52 students online

Several students at Glenwood Springs Middle School are also transitioning to remote learning for 14 days starting this week after an individual displayed symptoms of COVID-19.

In a news release Friday afternoon, the Roaring Fork School District said it has been working with Garfield County Public Health on contact tracing and has “contacted all students and staff who have been exposed.”

The 52 students who were exposed are instructed to stay home and quarantine for two weeks.

“Because the individual with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 was last at school on Monday, Oct. 26, those quarantining will be able to return to school on Monday, Nov. 9,” the release states.

In-person classes will continue for those who were not exposed, and the affected areas will be “deep cleaned and disinfected prior to the return of non-impacted students and staff.”

Elementary classrooms quarantined

Glenwood Springs Elementary School has also transitioned one class to distance learning because of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

School staff is working with Garfield County Public Health on contact tracing and has contacted all students and staff who have been exposed, according to a release Wednesday.

It was the second classroom quarantine for the Roaring Fork District since the return to in-person learning for K-8 students over the past two weeks. The weekend of Oct. 24, 30 students and staff at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale were placed on quarantine, and the school’s preschool program was shut down temporarily due to staffing impacts.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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