CHEYENNE – Less than two weeks after the start of the new school year in Laramie County School District No.1, there have been 466 quarantines mandated on students and faculty.
More than half of the quarantines went into effect after students returned from this past weekend. The majority of those forced to go into isolation must do so due to exposure, rather than confirmed infections.
Seventy-four students and 15 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, but if those who tested positive weren’t wearing a mask or following social-distancing requirements, anyone who was exposed to them must be quarantined.
Contact tracing through the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department, with the help of school nurses, confirmed those quarantined were within 3 feet of students and faculty who tested positive for more than 15 minutes and without a mask.
Health officials look at seating charts, video footage, vaccination records and more to determine if sending a child home is necessary.
Janet Farmer, the district’s head nurse, said the large portion of those not in school this week could have been had they been wearing masks.
“I’m not surprised,” she said in response to current COVID numbers in the district, “but I’m disappointed.”
Last week, with COVID numbers and exposures much lower than what’s being seen at present, she said she didn’t see a decreasing trend in the future. This week, she said she is even less convinced that cases and exposures will decline.
Farmer and other nurses in the district are now struggling to manage their duties outside of coronavirus, as hours are being spent contact tracing the student and faculty populations.
Farmer said it’s overwhelming because there are more than 14,000 students in LCSD1, and it’s their responsibility to keep track of the student body’s health.
She said she can only tell parents to get their children vaccinated and to wear a mask, because it isn’t possible to keep students unexposed to COVID and socially distanced at 6 feet in every school building.
“If we’re going to stop spreading COVID-19,” Farmer said, “we need people to take care of each other.”
Dave Bartlett, assistant superintendent of support operations, said the recent spike in numbers is high on the administration’s priority list, and his staff is monitoring the conditions. He said it’s a strong possibility that COVID cases in the district will continue to climb.
Bartlett said Superintendent Margaret Crespo and the board consistently work with the local health department to find the right prevention methods and anticipates they will have to revisit health and safety mandates.
As of Wednesday, there are no special LCSD1 Board of Trustees meetings on the docket, nor an update on back-to-school protocols.
LCSD2 Superintendent Justin Pierantoni and the board in District 2 held a special meeting Monday to discuss a possible part-time mask mandate, but no decisions were made on protocols there, either.