Superintendent clarifies situation regarding COVID-positive student

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Following is a statement from Hopkinton Public Schools superintendent Carol Cavanaugh about the Hopkinton High School student who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

As the Town of Hopkinton now knows, the Hopkinton Public Schools have had their first student test positive for the ​SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19. This press release is designed to clear up confusion in the community about how this particular case played out as well as how, when, to what degree people–including administration, faculty, staff, students, and families–are made aware COVID-19 cases in our school community.

First, it’s important to note that the School District ​typically learns of a COVID-19 positive student or staff member through Hopkinton’s Health Department. On Friday, September 25th, in the middle of the day, the School District learned from a student’s parent that there ​might be a COVID-19 positive High School student. (The student was not in school on Friday.) The Health Department then confirmed this particular case to be positive.

The investigation that was carried out at Hopkinton High School is, of course, unique to a high school schedule. An investigation at an elementary school would be very different, given that elementary students tend to remain in the same classroom with the same teacher for most of the day.

Immediately Principal Evan Bishop set the wheels in motion. It was determined that this particular ​student last attended school four days prior, on Monday, September 21st, and attended only three classes that day. Once the classrooms were identified, Mr. Bishop sought out seating plans from the three impacted classrooms, essentially from two teachers and one paraprofessional. The purpose of the faculty members and Mr. Bishop discussing these lists is to identify for the Health Department the names of students who ​might prove to be “close contacts.”

A “close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, or coming in direct contact with secretions (e.g., sharing utensils, being coughed on) from a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was symptomatic.

The first point of clarification for the community is that seating chart work is not a perfect science. For example, in one of the three classes, there were only five students, all wearing masks, and these five masked students were engaged in lab work, which required movement in the room. Because the School could not say who sat to the front, back, left, and right of the COVID-19 positive student, all the students in the room were deemed “close contacts.” Essentially, the School and the Health Department were erring on the side of caution.

Mr. Bishop also investigated whether the student took the bus. The student did not. Mr. Bishop investigated whether the student ate lunch in the building. The student did not. It’s important for the community to know that a thorough investigation took place. Once the “close contacts” were identified with input from both the Building Principal and the School Nurse,

Sarah Patterson, the Town Nurse, Kasey Mauro, informed ​only those students who are considered close contacts. Throughout the process, Sarah Patterson collaborated with both the Head Nurse for the Hopkinton Public Schools, Kathy Bain, and Town Nurse, Kasey Mauro. These three medical personnel work tirelessly to ensure that the process is carried out with the wellness of the whole school community at top of mind.

Here is a second point of clarification. Late this afternoon, Mr. Bishop reached out to the three adults in the Hopkinton Public Schools–again, two teachers and one paraprofessional–whose classrooms the student had been in on Monday, September 21st. The District will continue to notify classroom teachers and paraprofessionals whose students test positive for COVID-19. That way, if the teachers or the paraprofessionals wish, for peace of mind, to be COVID-19 tested, they certainly may choose to be. The Schools do not have permission to release a student’s name to anyone. Ever. Just as is true with students, if a teacher is deemed a “close contact,” that teacher will hear directly from the Hopkinton Health Department.

The Hopkinton Public Schools value the health and safety of all. And, in collaboration with the Hopkinton Health Department, Hopkinton has resources the community can be proud of.

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