Possible COVID-19 Exposure Sends Alpine High School Classes Online

By Ari Snider

Alpine High School is moving to remote learning for two weeks after students may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.

The campus closure comes as the number of active coronavirus cases in Brewster County has slowly climbed after falling to zero earlier this month. According to a letter Alpine Independent School District officials sent to parents and guardians Monday night, the exposure at the rural campus happened in the last four days.

“In keeping with our pledge to be open and honest about positive cases on campus, we will notify the staff and parents/guardians as cases are identified,” said Alpine ISD superintendent Rebecca McCutchen in an email to Marfa Public Radio. “The health and safety or our students, staff, and community are a priority and we will continue to follow all health protocols.”

Since classes at the rural West Texas school resumed last month, McCutchen estimates roughly 90% of high school students are receiving in-person instruction, while the remainder are staying home for remote learning.

When a district campus or facility is closed because of a positive coronavirus case, “the area will be fogged and disinfected,” according to the district’s plans for reopening schools this year. McCutchen said the high school campus was disinfected Monday afternoon and that teachers and staff who aren’t required to self-quarantine will be allowed on campus.

“We are asking that they social distance, wear a face covering, and follow all safety protocols while on campus,” said McCutchen.

In their letter to parents and guardians, the district did not say whether it was a student, staff member or teacher that tested positive for the virus in recent days. When asked, McCutchen said given confidentiality requirements, she “can only say an individual tested positive for the virus.”

State health officials are assisting campus administration to identify which students, staff or educators came into contact with the person who tested positive.

Students at the high school are switching to remote learning from Tuesday, Sept. 22 through Monday, Oct. 5. In-person learning is scheduled to resume on Tuesday, October 6.

According to the district’s protocols for returning to campus, students and staff who have tested positive for coronavirus are only able to return to school after meeting several criteria. That includes being fever-free, having improved symptoms, waiting for 10 days since their symptoms began, and having the approval of a medical professional to return to school.

In-person instruction at the elementary and middle school campuses is unaffected, according to district officials, and will continue as scheduled.

All high school events, including the next two football games, have been canceled. McCutchen said it’s possible that middle school events will continue next week, but that hasn’t been decided.

This story has been updated with comments from Alpine Independent School District superintendent Rebecca McCutchen.

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