School Supt. attempts to address parent concerns about virus exposure notification procedure

Pierce County School System will not be releasing a weekly status report for COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases within each school  — per the advice of Department of Education and Department of Public Health officials — but every parent who needs to quarantine their child at home will be notified by a school administrator immediately.

That was the report School Supt. Dara Bennett gave The Times last week in response to community inquiries about whether or not weekly status updates would be provided by the school system.

“That has to come from the Department of Public Health (DPH). They advise us of the cases and we don’t keep that data,” Bennett says. “We are supposed to contact and be in constant communication with DPH about outbreaks.”  

“To my knowledge none of our area school districts are releasing any kind of data,” she added. “I have been advised not to keep any records of it because the records need to come from the Dept. of Public Health … All superintendents are being advised we don’t need to keep records of it.”

Bennett added the school system was “very healthy” as teachers and students wrapped up the second week of classes Friday.

“I can tell you we are in great shape as a school system,” Bennett reported. “Our school system is very healthy right now. We don’t have anything that would be a cause for any kind of closure.”

The school system’s top administrator also stressed families are notified of a possible exposure as soon as contact tracing is conducted.

“We contact every parent immediately. We don’t send home a letter and you get it two or three days later. As soon as we know, they (parents) know,” Bennett says.

Anytime a parent contacts the school system to report their child has tested positive for COVID-19, school administrators are immediately tasked with conducting contact tracing as directed by DPH.

Elementary school administrators have reportedly taken their notification responsibilities a step further by notifying parents if a student in their child’s class has contracted COVID-19 even if their child was not exposed and DPH has not recommended quarantine.

That call volume reportedly dropped for the second week of school. Bennett only had knowledge of one new case reported last week.

Two weeks into the school year, Bennett foresees no immediate threat of school closure due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but if she receives a closure recommendation from DPH, the system will proceed with that advisement immediately, she says.

Families seem to be taking the situation in stride, following recommendations to keep their child(ren) home when necessary. Bennett says very few have expressed anger over the situation.

For now, educators are taking the situation one day at a time while recognizing the situation could change without warning.

“It’s going to take people understanding from time to time we’re going to have positives in our school system because there are positives in the community,” Bennett says. “As educators, we’ve got to feel like it’s a victory whatever instruction we get in. Every day we keep our schools open, it’s a great day.”