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Boyle County Schools give update on COVID-19 a week into start of in-person school

Since Boyle County Schools started their hybrid learning and students whose families chose to do so began to resume in-person school on Sept. 30, numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and numbers of students and staff who need to quarantine in the school district are being documented on an online dashboard. As of Friday, Oct. 9, there was one student, a high schooler, who tested positive for COVID-19 and several students who were quarantined due to non-school-related contact, as well as two staff members quarantined, also due to non-school-related contact, according to the dashboard and Amy Bugg, creative director for Boyle County Schools. Monday, Oct. 12, was the district’s seventh day back at school in person after the fall break Oct. 8 and Oct. 9. 

Nichole Brown, district health coordinator for Boyle County Schools and practicing nurse practitioner for the district — she works from Boyle County Middle School most days — said up to this point in time, all the district’s positive cases and quarantines have occurred outside of school. 

“Students and staff have been exposed to positive cases through their own households or extracurricular activities, not school-affiliated ones,” Brown said in an email. 

She said the student with the positive case was identified after the student notified the district. Brown said it’s important families let the school system know if their child has been put in isolation or quarantine by the local health department. She said Kentucky Regulatory Statute (KRS) 158.160 and State of Emergency 902 KAR 2:220E hold that families or guardians are obligated to notify the school system of a positive COVID-19 test result within 24 hours following the result. 

“Positive results should be reported for in-person, virtual and self-paced students,” she said in an email. 

The schools also communicate with local health departments to perform contact tracing by providing the department with information regarding where students are and who they may come in contact with. 

“We have formed a COVID Positive Response Team that has several key points of contact to gather and communicate transportation, athletic and after school activity information, seating charts and rosters,” Brown said in an email.

She said this information is given to the Boyle County Health Department or the student’s local health department based on the county of residence, and the department decides who should quarantine. 

Other than mask wearing and social distancing, Brown said the schools in the district also take other safety measures to control the spread of COVID-19. She said bathrooms are cleaned at least three times a day, frequent hand washing is encouraged, hand sanitizer is available on buses, non-contact thermometers are available at all sites and are used to screen students and staff. Also, she said staff complete health form surveys prior to coming to school and guardians have signed an agreement to screen their students each day before sending them to school. 

“Extra-curricular participants and events follow current KHSAA COVID-19 guidance,” she said in an email.

She said one-way hallways have also been established and no large groups are permitted in common areas, and the Board of Education also recently approved the creation of another nurse position so there is a nurse in each school, and HEPA filters have been installed in some buildings. The schools limit visitors and address needs through video and intercom systems and utilize student pickup via a Raptor system. 

“The majority of students seem happy to be back to in-person learning,” Brown said in an email. “Classroom structure is significantly different, but teachers have done a fantastic job with making learning innovative and helping to meet students’ needs.”

When it comes to her own role and well-being, Brown said every day presents its challenges and she does have concerns about the potential of catching COVID-19 herself, but she enjoys helping students stay safe. 

“Juggling time management and wearing all the hats I have been given can be challenging at times, since I am an administrator in the District Health Coordinator role and also giving direct care to students,” she said in an email. “I keep myself, my family, my co-workers and students safe by wearing appropriate PPE and following CDC and local guidance from the Kentucky Department of Public Health and our local health department. There are times when I am concerned about bringing COVID-19 or other illnesses home to my family. My own children are enrolled for in-person school and have been playing sports. We follow the guidance and mitigate risks where we can.”

Chris Holderman, assistant superintendent and COVID-positive response team leader for Boyle County Schools, said Superintendent Mike LaFavers recognized the need for the team about two months ago. 

“We have seen where some communities across the nation are struggling to stay in school,” Holderman said in an email. “This team’s main objective is to prevent the spread of the virus in our schools and to therefore increase the time we have in person.”