The following information is provided by Unita County Public Health

EVANSTON, Wyo.   –  This year getting ready for school, there’s even more to do and be aware of as you prepare your families for the start of classes.

Many of the old preparations apply, but this year with COVID-19 as part of the picture, there are some new things.

Here are some important things to know:

We all want kids to be in school, safe and learning, and we want teachers to be able to teach and do their important work in person. Taking some precautions is important and necessary to make sure that these can happen.

If outbreaks are minimal, and there is low frequency of illness, then there will be less disruption to the school year. Doing everything we can do to make that happen is priority. Just as education is a team effort, so is keeping the virus out of the school as much as possible.

Right now, the schools are working hard to employ the best tools we have to keep virus spread minimal. Some of the tools include changes in the normal routine or process in order to minimize exposure, physical distancing from each other, and face covering use.

Things will look different for students, and it is helpful to know a little about what that means.

Inside the classroom, desks will probably be spaced apart further than what they are used to. There may be plexi-glass partitions between some student workstations. More than likely, desks will all be facing the same direction.

Teachers will try to connect and be in tune with their students like always, but may do so without being quite as hands on, and without spending a lot of time in that 6 foot bubble around the students.

These efforts at creating space will both decrease the risk of virus transmission and minimize the times when face coverings are needed.

Research has shown that the use of face coverings makes a big difference in the transmission of the virus, so in situations and times when maintaining 6 feet of distance between students is not possible, students and staff will use face coverings.
Some school districts are planning to provide these for student use. Others may ask parents to include at least a couple of reusable masks as part of this year’s school supply list. Now is a good time to start helping children become accustomed to wearing face coverings.

Elementary schools will have an easier time limiting student mixing and exposure to a lot of other students because of the class structure. In the upper grades where students commonly transition between classes, it is more difficult, and the districts are working on tweaks to the normal process of moving class to class. Some will continue to follow a block class structure so that there are only 3 or 4 classes in a day. Others will plan for certain flow plans as students move through the halls. Transition will likely be one of those times when 6’ of distancing between individuals will be difficult and students will wear face coverings.

Riding the bus is also a hard time to keep students spaced, so face-covering use is necessary.

School lunch may be a little different. Each school will have a slightly different plan, but they will be similar in that the process, including schedules and locations may be altered or different to minimize the number of students in an eating area at one time. There may be expansions of lunchrooms to make more space for spreading out, may be individual classes eating and seating together, or lunch will be brought back to the classrooms for eating. In the upper grades, a microwave and/or self-serve options may not be available.

Students will be screened for symptoms of illness as they enter school buildings. It will be very helpful for parents to do so at home beforehand. The symptoms of COVID-19 in kids include congestion, cough, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and fever > 100.4. Fever is not very common among children with COVID-19, so the other symptoms are important to watch for, especially when a few of them occur together at the same time.

In addition to screening for symptoms, students will be asked about contact with anyone sick.

Students that present with any of these symptoms will need to go home. If a student has serious symptoms that are of concern to parents or staff, they may be referred to a healthcare provider. Otherwise, parents will be called to pick them up, and they will be referred for testing.

Testing when symptoms are present is an important strategy to prevent a lot of spread, too. Knowing who is sick with COVID-19 and who isn’t allows us to take the appropriate measure to prevent rapid transmission. There are several low- or no-cost testing options currently, and healthcare providers and the county are working to obtain rapid testing methods that are accessible to all of the communities.

If a student tests positive, they will be isolated at home for 10 days from the start of symptoms, and until their symptoms have resolved for at least 24-48 hours. (That includes no fever without the use of medications. Some schools require 24 hours, others require 48 hours of symptom recovery.) After 10 days, with symptom recovery, research has found these individuals are no longer contagious.

Public Health will work with schools to determine who are close contacts of positive cases, who will need to quarantine to make sure the illness doesn’t spread further. Students in the same classroom, or in contact in other areas with someone who tests positive may be required to quarantine depending on how close and long the contact was, and what preventive measures were in place. Quarantine last for 14 days from date of exposure (which is the length of the incubation period of the virus.)

If a student’s test result is negative, they will need to recover at home until their symptoms have resolved for 24-48 hours, (depending on the school) unless they’ve had close contact with another positive case. In that situation, they will continue to quarantine.

If a child exhibits symptoms, but no test is done, and there is a strong recent connection or exposure to a positive case, the student will need to stay home for 10 days from the onset of symptoms and have symptom recovery, as if they were a positive case.

If a sick student has no recent connection or exposure to a positive COVID-19 case, and doesn’t get tested, they will need to stay home until school policy allows for their return, and/or their symptoms have resolved for at least 24 hours (check with your school for the school-specific policy.)

If a different diagnosis is given to a child, they should stay home until school policy or the healthcare provider determines that they are recovered sufficiently to go back to school.