NEW PARIS — National Trail High School has chosen to suspend in-person classes until at least Monday, Oct. 5 due to four students testing positive for the coronavirus. In addition, approximately 60 classmates who had been in close contact with the infected students have been asked to self-quarantine.
After-school activities and athletic events at the high school have also been cancelled for the week of Sept 28; classes and activities at the elementary and middle school have so far remained unaffected.
The first student tested positive Friday, Sept. 18 after being absent from school since the previous Wednesday, according to National Trail Superintendent Bob Fischer. As a result, students and staff who had been in close contact with the infected student since Sept. 14 – two days before the student began experiencing symptoms – were sent home from school and asked to self-quarantine.
“Close contact” is defined as being within six feet of the infected student for at least 15 minutes during the four-day period between Sept. 14 and 18, according to Fischer.
Three additional infections were confirmed Sept. 23 and 24, Fischer said, at which point parents in the district were notified and the decision was made to suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the 14-day quarantine period. None of the infected students has been at school since Sept. 18, according to Fischer.
Once a student begins showing symptoms, a process called contact tracing is used to determine the identities of students and staff with whom the infected student has been in contact. This typically involves the district’s nursing and administrative staff helping the student to recall everyone with whom they’ve interacted in the past several days, as well as consulting teachers and classroom seating charts.
In-person classes at the high school are currently expected to resume Oct. 5, according to Fischer, provided no further infections are discovered.
“The next 36-48 hours are crucial for us,” Fischer told The Register-Herald on Friday afternoon. “Have we had any more positive identifications? If we get past Sunday, any new cases would not be as concerning.”
A decision about whether to resume in-person classes will be made by the end of this week, according to Fischer. In the meantime, Fischer implored parents in the district to continue to observe state-mandated safety protocols.
“When students are not feeling well, please do not send them to school,” Fischer said in a recorded message to parents posted via YouTube. “Please keep them home until they are symptom-free, or until you have seen a doctor to [determine] the potential illness.”
Fischer also asked students and parents to follow all social distancing and face-covering mandates. Fischer had a particular message for students sent home and asked to self-quarantine before the decision was made to close the high school.
“Please remember that quarantining means you’re not supposed to leave your house,” Fischer said. “It means you’re staying in one location and not potentially impacting others. Even if you feel perfectly fine, there is still a potential that you could be carrying the COVID-19 virus.”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish