EAST GREENWICH- At the last East Greenwich School Board meeting, it was announced by Superintendent Alexis Meyer that they had a total of three positive COVID-19 tests out of the 1108 students tested through the BiNax Now Asymptomatic Testing.
That’s why it was such a shock to the district when nine students in one grade tested positive at the same time last week. The positive tests came from Meadowbrook Elementary School.
“The positives were a result of our ongoing asymptomatic Binax testing,” Meyer wrote in a memo to students, parents and staff at the school. “While perhaps surprising, this is precisely why mitigation strategies such as asymptomatic testing are crucial in our ongoing work to diligently protect our school community,” she went on to say.
When the district became aware of the positive tests administrators knew they had critical decisions to make. With February break scheduled to begin the next week, the administration came to the conclusion to go with no in-person learning last Thursday and Friday.
“EGSD administration has been in contact with our partners: the RIDE Education Operations Center (EDOC), the Department of Health, our school department consulting physician, and other medical professionals,” the memo stated. “Collective thinking has led to the decision to temporarily close the building to in-person learning. This will allow the District and our partner agencies to fully investigate and contact trace. Thankfully, we have a well-coordinated multi-agency team to responsibly guide our process,” it went on to say.
According to the memo from Meyer, early contact tracing took place after the district became aware of the positive cases. The contact tracing impacted at least 36 additional students on seven different buses and/or siblings in 10 additional classrooms. Fifty additional students were tested from four other classrooms, all with negative results. Twenty-three staff were also tested, all with negative results.
In her memo Meyer explained that they will continue to make communication a priority when it comes to the pandemic.
“We will maintain transparency via ongoing communication should any additional cases be identified,”Meyer stated in the memo.
Meyer also explained in the memo that the Rhode Island Department of Health recommends close contacts of people with COVID-19 get tested (with an antigen or PCR test) on the fifth day of quarantine or later.
“This will assist in detecting asymptomatic infection and isolating quickly to prevent further spread,” Meyer stated.
With the pandemic closing in on one year, and ‘COVID fatigue’ becoming more and more of a reality, Meyer said that she appreciates everyone’s understanding.
“As the superintendent of schools and an East Greenwich resident, I care deeply about the well being of our students, families, and staff,” Meyer wrote in the memo. “Your understanding and support are appreciated as we continue to responsibly navigate this situation.”
In addition to schools being closed for in person learning due to the positive COVID-19 cases, report cards and progress notes distribution were delayed until Monday, Feb.22. They were originally supposed to be sent out on Friday, Feb. 12.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 wasn’t the first major outbreak involving a public entity, in the town of East Greenwich.
In November the East Greenwich Fire Department had half of its firefighters on the bench causing the department to seek help from neighboring towns.
Since then, a majority of the professional town staff has been able to get vaccinated as part of the regional vaccination program hosted in East Greenwich. Essentially since there is a large amount of people needed to work at the vaccination site, town staff decided to get as much of its staff as possible to work at the sites, which in return allowed them to become vaccinated. Not only did it allow the town to have more confidence in preventing services from being interrupted, it has allowed them to make sure the vaccination distribution site can run smoothly.
For teachers, and school staff, when they will be vaccinated is still up in the air.
At the time of publication Meyer said that the district’s plan to continue school in person after the February break ends is still in place. She also noted that at this time she hasn’t been informed of any new positive cases.