CHARLESTOWN — A class at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in Charlestown is quarantining for two weeks after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
Those who came into close contact with the Pleasant Ridge employee are under quarantine based on the recommendation of Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel, according to Renee Markoski, executive assistant to the superintendent at Greater Clark County Schools. She declined to disclose additional details regarding the situation.
“If they were in direct contact — if they have been in six-foot radius for at least 15 minutes — we do ask them to go through the official quarantine,” Yazel said. “Otherwise, we stress to all parents, if their children are not feeling well, don’t send them to school, and don’t send them to school if they have been tested and their test is still pending.”
There have been several COVID-19 cases in Greater Clark schools since classes began last Wednesday. A student at Charlestown High School and a student at New Washington High School have both tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of school, according to the Clark County Health Department.
Jeffersonville High School began the school year with virtual learning after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Monday afternoon, there were no additional COVID-19 cases reported at New Washington High School and Charlestown High School. Several students at the schools who were in close contact with the students who tested positive are in quarantine, according to Yazel. In-person classes resumed Monday at both schools.
At Charlestown High School and New Washington High School, the students who tested positive both attended school Wednesday and Thursday.
Yazel said it can be easier to conduct contact tracing for elementary students since they stay within the same class throughout the day, but there are also challenges in determining exposure within the classroom.
“If there’s any benefit to it being an elementary school, at least they don’t change classes, so it makes it easier that way, but it also makes it tougher with contact tracing for younger children — they are less likely to sit at their desk and more likely to hug their teacher and things like that... it’s kind of a doubled-edged sword as far as contact tracing goes,” he said.
Yazel said he thinks Greater Clark has handled the positive COVID-19 cases well. He walked through Charlestown High School last Wednesday, and he was pleased with the school’s mask compliance and other safeguards, he said.
“We’re just working through process the best we can,” he said. “This is not a sign of anything done wrong by any parties involved — it’s just the nature of COVID-19 and the prevalence in the community and our response we when find a case.”
Greater Clark and the Clark County Health Department are “on the same page” in handling COVID-19 cases, and the department has been communicating with the school district on a regular basis, Yazel said.
“Obviously we don’t want to be dealing with this as soon as we start school — we’d hoped to have a smooth start,” he said. “This is probably the reality of the situation, but it does show that their process is working when they’re identifying people in a timely manner, when they’re finding the at-risk contacts and quarantining those contacts and making sure we’re keeping our kids safe without doing huge, sweeping shutdowns and things like that.”
Yazel said positive cases in schools are to be expected amid the “new normal.”
“They need to be flexible with the schools, because there are probably going to be some scenarios where their children might be quarantined, or their classroom might have to go home, or things like that, which are going to happen periodically as we begin to open up,” he said. “The prevalence in our community right now is high enough that it is likely that a lot of schools are going to have exposures like this.”