PREBLE COUNTY — Tri-County North and Preble Shawnee have become the second and third local school districts to report positive COVID-19 cases in the past week. Two elementary school instructors at TCN and one student at Preble Shawnee Junior and Senior High have tested positive for the virus.
In a letter dated Sept. 28, TCN Superintendent William Derringer revealed that a second elementary school teacher in the district has tested positive for the coronavirus. The teacher in question reportedly had close contact with five students during the week of Sept. 21, was out for rapid testing Friday, Sept. 25, and was confirmed positive the following day.
“Close contact” is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Neither the teacher nor the exposed students have been at school since at least Sept. 28, according to Derringer.
Another elementary teacher at TCN tested positive Sept. 20, after having close contact with two students and three staff members during the week of Sept. 14. None of those individuals have been at school since at least Sept. 21, according to Derringer, nor have any of the exposed students and staff tested positive or reported any symptoms.
Derringer credited TCN staff with keeping the numbers of exposed personnel to a minimum.
“Our teachers are doing everything they can to not even be around other teachers that much,” Derringer said, stating that teachers have taken to eating lunch in their classrooms to avoid being in close proximity for an extended period of time.
As far as interaction with students is concerned, Derringer said that periods when a teacher is standing in front of the class do not typically count as close contact.
“As long as they’re not back working with a particular student for 10 or 15 minutes, we feel pretty comfortable with what they’re doing,” Derringer said.
Derringer indicated there was little danger of a full-scale shutdown at this stage, stressing that TCN has still not had a student confirmed to test positive.
“The only thing that would prompt that is if you did contact-tracing and found out that a large number of students had been in close contact,” Derringer said. “So far it’s not been large enough numbers where we felt like we’d even consider closing our doors or sending students home at this point.”
COVID-19 safety procedures remain in full effect, according to Derringer, with students being temperature-checked as they board buses, both students and staff having their temperatures taken when entering the building, and all face-covering and social distancing mandates being observed.
In a letter dated Sept. 28, Preble Shawnee Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop confirmed that one student at the Junior and Senior High School had tested positive for COVID-19. A full-time contracted staff member of the district was diagnosed Sept. 13, according to another letter posted to the school’s web page.
According to District Nurse Lori Cottingim, the student in question was last at school Sept. 22; 10 students who had been in close contact with the infected party have been advised to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms as of Sept. 28.
Cottingim stressed that the school year has been going well so far in spite of these latest developments.
“Things have been going wonderfully since we’ve been in session,” Cottingim said. “The students and staff are doing very well.”
Bishop had encouraging words for parents and students at Shawnee.
“We want to reassure everyone that we’re following the plan; we feel like the plan is good; and we just hope we can move forward without having students test positive and have to be quarantined,” Bishop said. “Every time someone leaves us, that’s a disruption. There’s nothing better for education than continuity, and that’s a challenge in the days of COVID-19.”
Positive tests at TCN and Shawnee comes less than a week after National Trail announced its decision to suspend in-person classes and athletic activities at the high school until at least Monday, Oct. 5, due to four students testing positive and approximately 60 others being sent home and asked to self-quarantine.
The first Trail student tested positive Friday, Sept. 18, and as a result, students and staff who had been in close contact with the infected student since Sept. 14 were sent home. Three additional infections were confirmed on Sept. 23 and 24.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish