Greenwich Schools Asks Families to Report Covid Exposures/Symptoms after Thanksgiving to Principals

Update, Saturday, Nov 21. On Friday Greenwich Schools families received an email from the district asking that them to send any updated information over Thanksgiving break by Sunday before noon if a student or staff member has a Covid-19 related exposure or symptom to report.

This will provide time for Greenwich Schools to assess its status after the weekend.

Contact tracers will not be calling families on Thanksgiving Day, Friday, or Saturday after the holiday.

Families were asked to send any notifications to their school’s principal or Mary Keller, Greenwich Schools Head of Nursing.

“While we will not ask or tell anyone that they cannot travel, we do ask that you consider the Governor’s orders and restrict all non-essential travel,” the district said in the email. “But if you do travel out-of-state other than to New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island, we ask that you either have a PCR test less than 72 hours before leaving the affected state or upon your return. You will need to quarantine until you can obtain the results of a negative PCR test. If you cannot get tested, you will need to quarantine for 14 days from the date of your return.”

In addition, parents were asked to review Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 9I and the State’s travel advisory information.

Also, the email noted that after Thanksgiving, any families with children in grades K-5 who might choose to move a student from in-person learning to the Elementary Remote School must remain fully remote through the Winter Break.

“This is done to assist our elementary teachers with consistency of students in their classrooms,” the email said. “For these children, the next change date from fully remote back to in-person learning will not take place until January 4, 2021.”

SPORTS IN OR OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL 

Late yesterday, the Governor put forth an Executive Order halting all sports participation through January 19 in public schools, private schools, and private clubs. GPS and state-wide data shows that transmission through sports has caused many quarantines in schools, and in some instances, completely closed schools because there were not enough staff to teach in person. 

While quarantining is out of an abundance of caution, and it does not represent positive cases, it does cause tremendous stress on keeping schools open because we must have staff present to teach our children. 

Please encourage healthy workouts and connecting with friends online, and discourage our young people from congregating for pick up games and large group practices on private property which are against the Executive Order. Working together to wash hands, wear a mask, and maintain social distancing will help us keep our schools open. 

Also, parents received an email Friday night saying a ninth-grader and a 12-grader in the Greenwich High School Greenwich Cohort and a 12th-grader in the Cardinal Cohort – all who were last on school grounds on Monday, November 16, tested positive to Covid-19 due to exposures from family members outside of GPS.   As a result of thorough contact tracing, it has been determined that 11 additional students and one staff member must be quarantined for the required 14 days of exposures.

Update, Friday, Nov 20. A GHS 10th-grader in the “Greenwich Cohort” who was last on school grounds on Nov 11 tested positive due to an exposure from a non-school sponsored sporting event. The student must quarantine for the required 14 days of exposure. Because the student had not been in the school, contact tracing does not require any quarantine of other individuals at GHS.

Update, Thursday, Nov 19. A staff member in a Pre-K class at North Street School tested positive due to an exposure from an activity outside of Greenwich Schools and was last on school grounds Friday, Nov 13, 2020.

As a result, the class will learn remotely beginning on Friday, Nov 20 and can return on November 30 (due to the holiday). 

Update, Wednesday, Nov 18. On Wednesday Greenwich Schools notified parents that they had been notified that a 9th grader in the GHS “Greenwich Cohort” who was last on school grounds on Tuesday, November 17 tested positive due to an exposure from outside of Greenwich Schools. The student must quarantine for the required 14 days of exposure.

As a result of thorough contact tracing, 22 students and 3 teachers must be quarantined for the required 14 days of exposure.

Update, Tuesday, Nov 17. Greenwich schools emailed parents to say that a ninth-grade student in the “Greenwich Cohort” who was last on school grounds on Tuesday, November 10 tested positive due to an exposure from outside of Greenwich Schools.

The student must quarantine for the required 14 days of exposure. Because the student had not been in the school, contact tracing does not require any quarantine of other individuals at GHS.

Update, Monday, Nov 16. Greenwich Schools emailed parents on Monday saying earlier in the day they were notified that two students in the “Greenwich Cohort” who were last on school grounds on Tuesday, November 10, tested positive, one due to an unknown origin (otherwise known as a community transmission) and the other due to an outside activity.

As a result of thorough contact tracing, it was determined that 12 students will be quarantined for the required 14 days of exposure.

The district was also notified that a teacher who was last on school grounds on Friday, November 13 was exposed from a family member outside of school and will now remain in quarantine for 14 days.

At this time, they said it was not a confirmed positive case, but if the teacher should test positive, contact tracing would begin immediately and we would notify families.

Update No 2, Friday, Nov 13. Greenwich Schools sent an email to families saying they’d been asked if schools would be switching from in person to remote given the uptick in Covid-19 cases and incidents requiring students and staff to quarantine. The response was that the plan was to continue to stay open.

Text of the Email:

Decisions Regarding Learning Model Changes
Many of you have reached out to ask if GPS will be changing its learning model (in-person, hybrid, full remote) due to the rise of COVID cases in Greenwich and our region. Currently, our local and state health professionals are telling us that the spread of COVID is not coming from inside of our schools. The leading Connecticut Department of Health epidemiologist believes that schools should be open right now.

Until our local and state health professionals advise us differently, we will continue to offer the same options to our families as we do now. 

Before school started, there was a color-coded chart put out by the Connecticut Department of Health which was meant to guide a school district on in-person, hybrid, or full remote learning. The model was based on the number of COVID cases in the region. In the past many months, experts in the field continue to learn and modify their approach. Currently, “secondary factors” are just as important as local spikes push a locality from orange to the red phase. Secondary factors include where the spread is taking place. If GPS secondary factors start to change, our health and safety guidance would direct us accordingly. 

From the district perspective, COVID is monitored every day. While the district is taking this one week at a time, we do not have an expected date or marker that would push the district to go fully remote. We realize that Greenwich is in the red zone, but our school population of staff and students is not mirroring the community numbers. 

These decisions are not made lightly. Each school district in Fairfield County must make decisions based on their local metrics, staffing challenges, and individual district nuances such as number quarantined and managing overall buildings. While some think full remote is better, for many it is not. If we learned anything from last Spring, it was that remote learning is challenging for many of our staff, children, and young people. We also learned that many staff felt isolated and overwhelmed as they worked to teach from home with their own children at their feet. We acknowledge that there are some staff that would prefer a hybrid or full-remote model, and we respect those feelings. We are working to balance the interest of everyone, which unfortunately, sometimes competes with each other. 

Please think about your plans for Thanksgiving. We need everybody to be responsible and follow the state guidance.  

Quarantine Letters and Cohorting
GPS recognizes that parents from some schools have seen many Health Alerts, and it can make people feel anxious. Please note a few important points, which we hope will help alleviate some of the anxiety. 

Quarantine This is a mitigation strategy to keep people safe. Quarantine simply tells students and/or staff that they must stay home out of an abundance of caution as they were close to a person who tested positive for longer than 15 minutes, and within 6 feet. It does not mean that we think all of those in quarantine are positive. To date, those who quarantine are generally not testing positive, with the few exceptions of those students who were at the same social gathering, exposed to the same family member, or played on the same sports team as the positive case.  

Cohorting– GPS approached cohorting with a granular vision. We have microcosms of children and staff who mix during the day while at school. WMS and CMS have six different cohorts, while EMS has nine. This is important because when we contact trace, we can narrow-down the possible exposures. In Elementary, it’s even more separated, as they are cohorted by grade levels. Separate letters are generated for each cohort, but we may also have students that interact with other cohorts playing on the same private team, or attending a birthday party. Having multiple cohorts allows us to keep the majority of our students in school.  

Contact Tracing
Many have asked how contact tracing works. The tracing begins by having a discussion with the person who tested positive. The tracer must determine those individuals who were within 6 feet for greater than 15 minutes to the individual person from the time of the onset of the symptoms. Seating charts are utilized, attendance rosters may be checked, and when a challenging case is being worked, the principal may pull the video from the day in question to determine where the student or staff member traveled within a building. Those who need to quarantine are contacted individually, or in the case of a full cohort, a notification is sent out. An entire cohort could be impacted because the student or staff were in multiple locations, and the tracer is not confident they can eliminate an exposure while outside or inside the building. If the tracer has great information, a student could be in the same room, but 20 feet away and have no contact, which means they do not need to quarantine.   


COVID Tracker
GPS continues to update the district’s information every Tuesday and Friday on the COVID Tracker.  


BoE Meeting
The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 18. To make a public comment, please fill out the speaker form. Please be advised that the Board will be taking one hour of public comment during the public hearing portion at the start of the business meeting, with additional time allotted for public comment following the completion of the business agenda. Speakers will be recognized in the order they signed-up. Each speaker will be allotted three minutes and a timer will appear on the screen.

Update, Friday, Nov 13. On Thursday Central Middle School families of a seventh grade cohort were instructed to keep their children home on Friday.

A Health Alert said a family had informed the district that their child had tested positive for Covid-19. The middle school cohorts have about 100 students each.

Update, Wednesday, Nov 11. On Wednesday Greenwich Schools emailed GHS parents to say that an 11th-grader in the “Greenwich Cohort” who was last on school grounds on Tuesday, November 10 had tested positive for Covid-19 due to an exposure from a non-school sponsored sporting event.

After contact tracing, 50 students and 3 teachers were quarantined for the required 14 days of exposure.

Update, Tuesday, Nov 10. On Tuesday EMS principal Jason Goldstein, school nurse Jessica Wieneke, and Mary Keller GPS Head of Nursing alerted parents of the 7th Grade Green Cohort asking them to pick up their children as soon as possible after a student tested positive for Covid-19.

“We know some families may find an early pick-up challenging. Please know that we are spreading our classes out and utilizing the beautiful weather,” the alert continued.

“Unbeknownst to the school, a student in this cohort was exposed at a non-GPS sports practice last Tuesday, but continued to attend school last week impacting the entire cohort. Contact tracing is not able to be conducted given the tracing from point of exposure involves the full cohort.”

Updates, Monday, Nov 9. On Sunday night Greenwich Schools emailed Western Middle School parents to say that that afternoon an 8th grade parent informed them that their child who was last at school on Friday, November 6, had tested positive for COVID-19. Because of the timing of the information, they had not had time to perform contact tracing to determine which children and staff would need to quarantine. Out of an abundance of caution, the Green Team was asked to stay home on Monday while the district completes contact tracing .

At ISD, a teacher who was last on school grounds on Nov 6 tested positive from an exposure away from school. After contact tracing, the district determined the school’s entire third grade would quarantine for 14 days.

Also, on Sunday, Greenwich Schools emailed GHS parents to say that earlier in the day they were notified that a student in the “Cardinals cohort” who was last on school grounds Friday, October 30, had tested positive due to an exposure from a family member outside of school. After contact tracing, 25 students and one faculty member will be in quarantine for the required 14 days.

Update, Sunday, Nov 8. On Saturday night Greenwich Schools emailed North Street Schools parents to say they’d learned that a Pre-K student tested positive for Covid-19 due to exposure from someone outside of Greenwich Schools. The student was last on school grounds on Friday, November 6. Students in the child’s class will participate in school remotely beginning Monday Nov 9.

Update, Saturday, Nov 7. The school district was notified on Friday that three GHS students in “Greenwich cohort,” all who were last on school grounds either on Monday, Oct 26 or Tuesday, Oct 27, have tested positive for Covid-19 due to exposures from a family member or activities outside of school. No additional quarantining was deemed necessary.

Original story, Friday, Nov 6. On Thursday night, GHS parents received an email saying that a 10th grader in the “Greenwich cohort” who was last on school grounds on Monday, November 2 had tested positive for Covid-19 due to exposure from an activity outside of school.

After contact tracing the district determined 13 students would be required to quarantine for two weeks.

The news followed an announcement by Governor Lamont on Thursday that since Covid-19 trends were up across the state, with 11 new deaths, he would limit both indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10.

Lamont said just weeks earlier there were four towns on the State’s version of a “Measles Map,” which is a map of hot spots in Connecticut indicated by the color red. He said the hot spots started with four towns, and increased to 30, and then to 42, which represents about 60% of the state’s population. Red indicates 15 cases detected per 100,000 on a daily basis.

Lamont said he wanted to focus on the size of private gatherings, and would limit them to 10 people indoors or outdoors.

As for sports, Lamont said high risk sports will not be played through the end of the year, including Wrestling, Boxing, 11-1on-11 football, Rugby, Boys Lacrosse martial arts, Competitive Cheer and Dance.

Also, regional competitions or tournaments will not be allowed, beginning Monday, Nov 9.

On Wednesday families at GHS learned that a faculty member who was not a teacher had tested positive for Covid-19 due to an undetermined exposure, also known as a community transmission. That resulted in the required quarantine of five members of staff.

At Western Middle School, an 8th grader who was last in school on Oct 28 tested positive due to exposure from a family member outside school resulting in the quarantine of 13 students for 14 days.

Last Sunday, Nov 1, a GHS elective class teacher last in school on October 30 tested positive for Covid-19 due to exposure from a family member outside school, resulting in 25 students in both GHS cohorts – “Cardinals” and “Greenwich” – plus 4 teachers, needing to quarantine. Also, 16 students were exposed during a team sports competition not associated with Greenwich Schools on Friday, and were required to quarantine.

As of Friday, Greenwich was considered code orange, which is considered high risk.

The color codes are: Gray (low), tan (moderate), and red being a hot spot.