MERIDEN — School officials have made some changes to safety requirements following two instances of positive COVID-19 cases in two public schools.
Last week, public health officials confirmed a Lincoln Middle School student in a classroom had tested positive for the virus, and on Friday, a Maloney High School student football player also tested positive after attending a rally in Hartford protesting the cancellation of the scholastic season.
Superintendent of Schools Mark Benigni told school board members Tuesday that the school has emphasized to parents that any student awaiting COVID-19 test results is to remain home. After learning of the Maloney case, public health officials notified state officials that the student had attended the rally.
“At this time, all the Department of Public Health can confirm is that there is a student at Maloney who tested positive late last week, a contact trace investigation has been completed by the local health department, and all contacts for this individual have been identified and are self-quarantining at this point,” stated David Bednarz, a spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont.
Benigni also told members of Board of Education that school officials in consultation with the local Department of Health and Human Services would ban ventilator masks and gaiters worn around the neck in favor of respirator masks. Board members also received an update on safety measures in the schools, including mask compliance and students moving in specified directions in the hallways.
The schools reported about 65 percent of the district’s 8,500 students opting to learn in person. But in recent days, the district has received 130 requests for students to switch to distance learning and 132 requests to switch to in person learning, Benigni said.
“At this point we’re asking all families to wait until the close of the marking period,” Benigni said.
Meriden didn’t close either of the two schools when it was notified about the positive cases at Maloney and Lincoln. Public health officials said the decision to remain open was based on guidance from the governor’s office and the state Department of Education’s Adapt, Advance and Achieve document.
“This outlines contact tracing scenarios in schools,” said Meriden Health Director Lea Crown about the document. “We also consult with CT DPH epidemiology program. Every case is and will be different.”
The school board also voted to approve hiring four new distance-learning teachers to decrease classroom sizes for students learning from home.
School board members had little comment about the reported positive cases, and board President Robert Kosienski praised school and health officials for implementing safety procedures.
“We have collaboratively worked with the department of health, our unions and our custodial and maintenance staff to ensure that our buildings are cleaned meticulously, masks are worn without exception, hand sanitizer and signage in place- all emphasizing safety an are followed every single day, Kosienski stated in an email. “Parents and families are key to the success of keeping our buildings and program safe. ultimately, if a child presents signs of illness they need to be kept home. We will continue to work with the department of public health and the state of Connecticut to follow all the guidelines and ensure that the ( Meriden ) public schools are the safest place to be.”