Few students infected, but dozens quarantined

Those who have had contact with an infected person have been asked to stay home from school for two weeks. At one point, up to 60 Iola Middle School students were quarantined. Few are currently affected and none have become ill.

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September 24, 2020 - 9:51 AM

Jefferson Elementary School students have their temperatures checked on the first day of school. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Only a few cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in area schools, though those events have led to the quarantine of dozens of others in an effort to slow the spread of infection.

So far, those efforts seem to be working. Of the students who have been sent home because of contact with an infected person, none have become ill.

The Iola school district, which includes Gas and LaHarpe, has reported the most infections and quarantines. Two students at Iola Middle School and one at Jefferson Elementary School became infected with COVID-19, and those in close contact — such as teachers or classmates — were sent home for a two-week quarantine.

A handful of students remain quarantined in the Iola district, but are expected to return to school at the end of the week, Superintendent Stacey Fager said.

The Iola district had up to 60 students quarantined at one time, just after the Labor Day holiday. That’s because an infected middle school student had come in contact with classmates and football teammates, all who were asked to stay home. Football practices and games were canceled as a result.

On Wednesday, the district learned it would have to cancel its next two high school football games because of the diagnosis of a player on the opposing team in last week’s game against Wellsville. (See related story here.)

Humboldt had one staff member test positive for the virus, Superintendent Kay Lewis said. As a result, seven students, four teachers and four paraprofessionals were quarantined.They are expected to return to classes on Monday.

The Marmaton Valley district has not reported any cases and has not had any students or staff in quarantine, Superintendent Kim Ensminger said.

The schools work with the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Departments to identify positive COVID-19 cases, conduct contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed, and send home those students and faculty for a two-week quarantine.

Students or staff also may be asked to remain home for two weeks if they were exposed to someone outside the school system, such as a family member.

Both the Iola and Humboldt districts have had students and faculty in quarantine for that reason, as well. Marmaton Valley has not.

All superintendents said students and staff seem to be following requirements like wearing masks, social distancing, and extra cleaning and sanitization measures.

The fact that illness has not spread through the school system is an indication those measures work, Fager said.

“We would like to think that’s because of how well our staff, faculty and students take the virus seriously,” he said. “If we continue our preventative measures, we can limit the spread.”

Lewis and Ensminger agreed, and said students seem to have adapted to wearing masks.

“The kids are doing a great job wearing masks, and teachers are giving them mask breaks whenever they can,” Lewis said.

“Overall, morale is good,” Ensminger said. “Students have adjusted and as time has passed, they can wear them longer without needing a break but the teachers give them opportunities for mask breaks as well.”

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