SOUTHINGTON — Education officials aren’t sure how long they’ll close Southington High School for in-person learning as they perform contact tracing for a student who tested positive for COVID-19.
A letter from Superintendent Tim Connellan Monday said the school would be closed on Tuesday and maybe longer, depending on how much time it takes to determine how many people were exposed to the virus.
“Contact tracing is essential, yet time consuming,” Connellan wrote.
While Connellan wouldn’t say whether a student or teacher had tested positive for the virus, he did write that the person was in contact with the high school’s cohort A. The person was last at the school on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
By breaking up students into cohorts, it’s easier to determine who might have been in close contact with someone infected. Connellan said not everyone in the cohort would necessarily have been in contact, though.
The number of people affected plays into the decision whether or not to close a school, Connellan said, as well as what officials learn through contact tracing.
“We are making all decisions in conjunction with local health officials and following the protocols provided by the state Department of Public Health,” he said.
Teachers asked to return to the high school building for remote learning. Connellan said the health department approved teachers’ return and that all staff will report to school starting Tuesday, unless in quarantine.
Terri Carmody, Board of Education chairwoman, said school administrators were taking all the necessary precautions to keep students and staff safe.
“We only do what we feel is the safest for the children,” she said Monday.
One of her grandchildren is in cohort A. Even though the child tested negative for the virus, Carmody said her grandchild still has to quarantine since she was in contact with the infected student.
Carmody said the schools are taking precautions, but that someone can still get the virus somewhere else and bring it to school.
“Who knows where the kid caught it?” she said.
School officials planned to contact people who might have been exposed to the virus by Monday. Those contacted should quarantine for two weeks from the day of contact, Sept. 15.
Connellan and Southington High School Principal Frank Pepe didn’t return a request for more information on the situation Monday.
Shane Lockwood, Plainville-Southington Regional Health Director, said with a large school like Southington High, it’s worth it to ensure contact tracing is done thoroughly.
“We just want to make sure we get everybody that we need,” he said. “An extra day of remote learning at this point is a very prudent call.”
Those who should quarantine should expect a call from a school nurse or health department official. Lockwood said quarantine means staying at home, not just staying home from school.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that those who might have been exposed to the virus get tested even if they don’t have symptoms. Lockwood said the health department isn’t requiring a test, though.