Transitioning with technology
As schools gravitate back to hybrid learning models that will include more in-person instruction, Gervais School District is using technology to augment safety as it navigates the transition.
Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority have provided requirements and guidelines for the transition, while GSD Superintendent Dandy Stevens said the district's process will include daily health screenings and contact tracers.
The health screenings are consistent with those routinely in use currently at clinics, hospitals and other health-care facilities where a person entering has a temperature read and is asked questions related to the symptoms of COVID-19.
"We are required to ask each individual a set a questions affirming they have no symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been around anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19," Stevens said in a district-wide announcement. "The district is also required to be able to contact trace a person should there be an exposure or outbreak. This means that if someone is diagnosed with COVID-19 or displays symptoms of COVID-19 the district is then required to trace every person that student or staff member has been in contact with."
Should it surface, the latter task provides more challenges. But the district has purchased contact tracers for staff and students to help manage it. Contact is defined by health officials as being within 6 feet of another person for at least 15 minutes.
District officials said the situation is easier to manage with younger students, grades pre-k through 5, since they don't move from class to class and tend to be in smaller groups. Grades 6 through 12 move around more and will be using contact tracers.
"While each building will have seating charts and clearly defined paths to move around the building, that will not be sufficient to determine who may need to quarantine should there be an exposure," Stevens said.
Contact tracers resemble a badge and are worn on a lanyard. When people are inside 6 feet of each other, the tracer emits a small vibration and red light as an alert, and then a green light once returned to a safe distance. It also records the distancing in 30-second increments.
"Should there be an exposure or outbreak, then the nurse or administrator is able to run a report to see who meets the criteria requiring that they be quarantined as a result of their exposure to the infected person," Stevens noted. "This will greatly simplify the process in terms of identifying who really needs to be in quarantine."
District officials said the technology aims to provide accurate data regarding contact and serves to avoid unnecessarily quarantining students who have not been in contact if an outbreak does occur.
There has been some criticism of this safety strategy on social media, primarily coming from outside the district.
One Washington woman posed in a blog: "Are you ready for your child to wear a tracking device at school?"
Another woman likened the tracers to being akin to shock collars, and a man commenting on a Facebook page dubbed "TheFreeHumanBeingProject" even suggested the effort was akin to "brainwashing and indoctrination" and that any parent who agrees with the tracers is "culpable of child abuse."
Stevens emphasized that the tracers are not GPS devices.
"The tracers do not track the location of students or staff," Stevens stressed. "They only track the amount of time the device spends while within 6 feet of another device."
The superintendent also made her contact information available for anyone with questions about the transition safety measures, including the contact tracers.
Contact Tracer website: https://www.instant-trace.com/
Gervais School District video: https://bit.ly/30YwqB3
Contact Dandy Stevens at: 503-792-3803.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.