Sick Students Going To School Is Biggest Pandemic Challenge For Washington County School District
In the Washington County School District, no school has had to move to remote or hybrid learning because of major COVID-19 outbreaks. But district officials said they’re still feeling the effects of the pandemic.
Students coming to school sick has been one of the biggest challenges this semester, said district spokesperson Steven Dunham.
In a given week, Dunham estimated some schools in his district report sending a dozen or so students home. Not all of those students end up having COVID-19, but he said it’s still too much of a risk to have them at school.
“Sick children are coming to school and it's getting our employee sick,” he said. “And if we get enough employees sick in a school, that has come closer to shutting down our schools than the number of COVID cases.”
There haven’t been too many COVID-19 cases at La Verkin Elementary, where Becky Seymour teaches. But the fourth grade teacher said several employees there have been in quarantine, which has had an impact on staffing.
“It presents like the principal needing to fill in for a teacher until a [substitute] is ready or the title one coordinator needing to be the secretary for a couple of days,” she said. “It's like all hands on deck.”
Despite the challenge of working with students and staff who are in and out of quarantine and following other safety guidelines, Seymour said she’s grateful to be teaching in-person.
To date, there have been no reports of major outbreaks within schools — a promising sign, according to Southwest Utah Public Health Department spokesperson David Heaton.
“Even though things have been going well in school, as far as no at-school transmissions that we're aware of that are significant, it could open up if enough infected kids are going,” Heaton said.
As of Dec. 10, the district reported 100 students and 54 staff have active cases of COVID-19. More than 600 students and staff are currently quarantined among the nearly 30,000-student district.