School districts prepare for contact tracing

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 6:30 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As students and teachers return to school during a pandemic, contact tracing will be an important process in tracking the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Dakota News Now spoke with several school districts about what their plan is for the school year.

Contract tracers have an important role during this COVID-19 pandemic. Their job starts once someone tests positive for the virus.

“We kind of walk through their day, who they’ve been in contact with, where they’ve been in the building, who they might have seen in the hallways, or in the classrooms, what student might have sat close to them in a classroom,” said Tara Krell, a District Nurse for the Tea Area School District.

The Department of Health then makes calls to those who may have been affected.

Krell is leading contact tracing for the Tea Area School District. She's had a busy summer preparing.

“I have taken an online course through John Hopkins University for contract tracing, just to help give us a little more information and guidance in how to do this,” said Krell.

To keep track of cases the district will be using a secure spreadsheet.

In the Sioux Falls School District, they will send out an email to families and staff each time there is a positive case at their child's school. Anyone identified as a suspected close contact will also receive a separate letter.

“We do want folks to know that there is information that we are not able to provide, so you know, we have to keep the identity of the positive person confidential,” said Molly Satter, Health Services Coordinator for the Sioux Falls School District.

At the Brandon Valley School District, a new position will help with contact tracing.

“A COVID EA or a student health services assistant for each of our schools. So that individual will support our school nurses in their efforts to contact trace as well as communicate back with families,” said Jarod Larson, Superintendent of the Brandon Valley School District.

Larson says the most critical component to successful contact tracing will be staying on top of where all students and staff go throughout their days.

“The maintenance of accurate daily attendance accounting as well as seating charts within the classroom and then ultimately diagrams for other activities outside the classroom,” said Larson.

Communication with families and staff is also key.

Copyright 2020 Dakota News Now. All rights reserved.

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