East Grand schools curb COVID
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the East Grand School Board’s actions on this matter.
East Grand School District students and faculty can breathe a little easier, thanks to the hard work of both, plus parents, the school board, and the leadership of Superintendent Frank Reeves in following protocols to curb COVID cases to a level that allows students to now ride mask-less on buses and schools to remove mandatory quarantines for staff and students.
On Wednesday, Reeves sent a letter to parents letting them know that on Feb. 27, the Center for Disease Control published new guidelines for schools operating during the pandemic.
“They reflect the positive changes in COVID mitigation and spread we have seen in recent weeks. We have met with Grand County Public Health and they have outlined the new protocols we will be working under,” he wrote.
Notably, low transmission rates in the county allow schools to transition to “routine disease control methods and no longer require quarantines for staff and students,” he wrote. This comes after Grand County reached case rates below 100 per 100,000 residents for five days in the month of February.
Per the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the rate places Grand County in “Green: Protect your Neighbor” or “Blue: Caution” levels of transmission, which translate to “No greater than 5% positivity in the last seven days” and “sufficient local hospital bed capacity.”
Prior to sending his letter on Wednesday, Reeves said he estimated that 25% to 33% of staff and students were still wearing masks. On Thursday he said, “There has been a significant reduction (of mask use) on buses, but in school there hasn’t been a noticeable reduction from the beginning of the week until now.”
The school district continues to support regular mask use by staff and students, even when not required by local public health orders, Reeves said. CDC continues to recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and at all transmission levels.
“Any student or staff member who wishes to continue with mask wearing can do so and we will support that decision,” Reeves added. “We want people to feel as safe as possible and will support whatever decision is made for our students and staff to feel that way.”
East Grand School District Board President Ed Raegner said that board of six “spent countless hours getting community feedback. We weighed heavily over the decision and tried to reflect the will of the community. We looked at what was going on in the community and tried to reflect that as well. Many thanks to GCPH, who attended each of our meetings and kept us apprised of what was happening. We took a number of surveys and each reflected a great split in the community, with each one being so close to 50/50 on what to do, decisions were not easy to make.”
Along with the lifting of mandatory quarantine protocols comes less disruption in the classroom. Reeves said that although the district doesn’t record weekly numbers of COVID cases in school, East Grand schools saw their highest numbers last year directly before Thanksgiving and in mid-January of this year.
He added that as of Wednesday, there were no active cases as a result of school. Nor on Wednesday had he received pushback from students, parents, or staff wanting old COVID protocols to stay in place.
Protocols to continue include the following:
• Continued encouragement of COVID vaccination for all staff and eligible students
• Isolation requirements for students and staff who are ill or test positive for COVID
• Recommendations for transmission prevention strategies, including testing and masking
• Support for mask use, even when not required by local public health orders
• Continued reporting of identified cases and outbreaks to public health as required by law
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