Pratt USD 382 move to 'Amber' on COVID-19 plan

By Courtney Blankenship
Pratt Tribune
Amber zone protocols are in effect at USD 382 as the number of positive COVID-18 cases goes up in Pratt.

Pratt USD 382 currently has three classrooms in modified quarantine, and with a surge of positive cases in the community, and Superintendent Tony Helfrich, said that the number of classes could increase. Starting Monday, Aug. 23, the school district began operating under ‘Amber’ status until further notice.

Helfrich said there are protocols in place for each zone, and the restrictions increase as the district moves from Green Plus to Amber to Red. For the Amber zone, masking is required for grades 5-12.

“We primarily look at local data to determine our zone. We maximize social distancing wherever possible at all of the schools while in Green Plus,” Helfrich said. “For pre-K [through] 4th grades, we use plexiglass sneeze guards to separate desk stations if we are in the Amber zone. Per recommendations from the Kansas Pediatrics Working Group, we do not use mass temperature checks because they recommended against it for the reason that massing students for the temperature check increased contact and a high temperature is only inconsistently a symptom of being covid positive.”

Last week-- during the first week of school-- the district operated in the Green Plus zone. For pre-K through 4th grades, the district offers a “modified quarantine” at the preschool and at Southwest Elementary.

Ryan Creadick, principal of Liberty Middle School, said that grades 5 through 12 do not issue modified quarantines in response to positive cases.

“Instead, we use seating charts from classrooms and lunch settings to determine if situations of high-risk exposure were present. If circumstances point to a high-risk exposure, the principal will make a phone call to family members to discuss the protocols of quarantine,” Creadick said. “If the circumstances are not deemed high risk, families affected are given an automated phone call acknowledging that their child had limited exposure to a positive case of COVID-19 and are recommended to monitor symptoms-- or lack thereof-- over the next 72 hours.”

If students are not feeling well or if they have symptoms such as “unexplained headaches, congestion, or the loss of smell or taste,” Creadick said parents should keep their children home for 72 hours, and if symptoms persist, children should be kept home until they are symptom-free.

While operating under Green Plus protocols, as the district did for the first week of school, Creadick said that procedures included increased use of hand sanitizer and hand washing in between transitions for different classes, limiting large assemblies and activities, masking on all school-based transportation, and creating three to six feet of social distancing whenever possible.

Once a classroom has a positive case with one of the students, Helfrich said that the COVID-positive student's quarantine timeline is set by the Health Department.

“That classroom then has an altered schedule and daily operation to minimize contact with other students in the building,” Helfrich said. “Students in the modified quarantine classroom start their day at 8:30 a.m. and end the day at 3 p.m. They are not allowed to ride school transportation in order to avoid exposure to other students. The changed timing of the day also avoids exposure with other students at school.”

Throughout the school day, classrooms under modified quarantine take recess separately from other classes and have lunch in the classroom. Adults working with students in modified classrooms must wear masks.

“Instruction is still from the classroom teacher and continues as normal, other than avoiding exposure with other students in the building,” Helfrich said. “Upon learning of a positive case, school personnel-- typically the classroom teacher-- call parents to explain the option and answer questions.”

If parents still choose to send their children to school, the school day will follow the aforementioned format, and direct, face-to-face instruction will continue.

“For parents who choose to keep a child at home for the modified quarantine period, teachers provide instructional materials remotely,” Helfrich said. “The child receives a device for take home during the modified quarantine period. The length of the quarantine equals the first contact exposure quarantine period--10 days from the last contact with the covid-positive student.”

The main goal and mission of the school district, Helfrich said, is to keep all students healthy and progressing forward.

“We also want to be a good community partner,” Helfrich said. “The national and international data has shown that it is extremely rare for children to be hospitalized from covid. But, we know they can be spreaders of the disease within the community as all covid-positive individuals are. Our objective is to keep our schools operational and kids in school.”

All major protocols are discussed with the local county health department, and the district works to balance the objectives of keeping kids safe, moving forward, and being a responsible community partner.

“We've been very appreciative of our community's support during a challenging period in our history,” Helfrich said. “I believe that support contributed to our success last year and will be key to helping keep our overall community health situation strong. Our students have been champs in their willingness to do what is needed.”