Fewer than 10 students and staff had contact with positive COVID case in East Helena School District

Posted at 1:38 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 20:46:38-04

EAST HELENA — The East Helena School District announced Monday a student had tested positive for COVID-19.

Of the more than 1,600 students and faculty that are in the district, less than 10 individuals had direct contact with the positive case at school according to Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer.

Whitmoyer credits their COVID plan for the low number of potential exposures.

“We didn’t just plan for a sunny day. We’ve tried to plan for as many difficult situations as we could, and tried to minimize and spread of the disease amongst the students and faculty,” said Whitmoyer.

East Helena has been using a “cohort” model for their 2020 school year that has students in small groups and limits them from interacting with other groups.

“That way if there is a COVID cases, it’s not transmitted throughout the school building,” said Whitmoyer. “Our schools have anywhere from 200-450 students. An entire school to be impacted would be a very bad thing.”

The nurse for the School District was notified Sunday by Lewis and Clark Public Health of the positive COVID-19 case.

“The student hadn’t been at school for a day or two, but there were still possible contacts that were made that had potential of further infection. So we immediately jumped into action,” said Whitmoyer.

All families and individuals that may have had contact with the student were notified by Public Health, and contact tracing has been completed.

Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) the school district will not be releasing which school the student attended to protect their identity.

The staff and students that had potential exposure, along with the student that tested positive, will be quarantined for two weeks before they can return to in-class instruction. During that time students will take part in distance learning from the school.

The school district is currently deep cleaning areas the COVID-19 positive student may have interacted with.

Each student and faculty member is required to wear a facemask and they regularly wash their hands while at school.

No other classes, school activities or sports in the school district have been impacted by the positive case.

“That’s the beauty of the cohort, is that a small group was exposed, not a big group or the whole school. It’s a very small group and we’re confident it was contained within that,” said Whitmoyer.

Whitmoyer says he truly hopes there isn’t another COVID-19 case in his school district. However, he is also a realist and says the school is prepared for another case should it arise.