No one wants to think that COVID-19 can hit Jackson County schools, and no one feels this more than Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that cases will occur with students or staff in this school year.

Hess said that Jackson County will follow the best practices set by the West Virginia State Board of Education.

“They’ve given us the guidelines to follow when responding to any cases or outbreaks,” he said. “And we are in close contact with the local health department. We are fortunate to have a good working relationship with them.”

There are specific protocols to follow for single student/staff case or confirmed outbreaks involving two or more people from separate households or two or more outbreak classrooms.

Response to each scenario includes quarantining and contact tracing. With the positive case at Kenna Elementary, contact tracing has been concluded and all those involved are being quarantined.

“This was the first case we’ve seen since school began with students attending on Sept. 8,” Hess said. “We worked with the health department to formulate a press release to inform the community.”

Hess said that having students with assigned seats on busses assists in contact tracing if positive test results occur.

With the virus being spread through asymptomatic cases, Hess said parents are asked to self-check their children by taking temperatures and having conversations each morning before sending them to school. All students are required to sanitize when getting on and off the bus and to wear masks.

“Some of our biggest concerns are lunchtimes, especially at the secondary schools,” Hess said. “Each school is trying to be creative, opening up areas such as gyms and auditoriums, and offering bag lunches that can be taken outside.”

For Hess, it ultimately comes down to being diligent in following requirements.

“At the end of the day, if we follow the guidelines we’re given,” he said, “we’ll know we’ve done the right thing.”

To read the complete document, go to wvde.us/school-system-re-entry and click on “Defining Covid-19 Outbreaks in Schools.”