Just about one month into the school year and it seems speculation and misinformation has begun to circulate among parents of Oakdale Joint Unified School District students. That speculation may have been triggered last week as multiple students at Oakdale High were notified of exposure to a COVID-positive student as well as some sports programs being put on hold.
“The fact of the matter is, there was one positive case,” Superintendent Dr. Dave Kline said, referencing the OHS football team specifically. “The other people were close personal contact. Not necessarily with that one person.”
The superintendent went on to add that the school has 19 current positive cases at the high school. That number was as of Monday afternoon, Aug. 30.
And while some people may have come in contact with those who have tested positive, officials point out that contact is not the same as a positive case.
All information in regards to current COVID cases throughout the district is made public on the OJUSD website via the “School Site COVID Dashboard” link. The link lists all cases throughout the district by school site. According to Kline the spreadsheet is updated every Thursday at minimum.
At press time the district total of “Current COVID Active Cases” was 19 for the district accounting for .6 percent of the student body, as well as staff.
The Dashboard equips parents, staff and community members with a number of things by way of information. One item which Dr. Kline felt important to clarify was the 5 percent threshold, which has been miscommunicated as a number which would once again shut down Oakdale schools. This would not be the case.
According to Kline the verbiage is important for the community to understand. Namely two things: first would be the percentage is looked at by school site and the second being that when and if a campus does reach the 5 percent level, the district will consider a shutdown, pending advice of County Public Health.
“We would reach out to county health and then we would make a decision based on those numbers for that campus,” the superintendent stated.
With a total of 5 percent not currently a viable threat, Kline reiterated something which has been repeated by staff, administration, as well as Board members since the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
“The end goal is keep our students in school and miss the minimum amount of school as possible,” Kline said, noting this has required additional commitment by the district health staff, as well as increased work.
The new district protocol of testing students on campus (if not vaccinated) or simply requiring the test once exposure has been identified has made a positive impact in the 2021-2022 school year. It’s a process which Kline feels is working.
“Working in terms of we’re able to keep our students at school as opposed to the way it was last year,” he said. “Last year exposure put a student out 10 to 14 days.”
Kline shared that this year versus last would be the change of that 10 to 14 days quarantine versus being able to test the student or allow them to test off campus and return if they show a negative result following exposure.
If the student is in close personal contact, they must be tested twice during a 10-day period if they are asymptomatic, which allows them to stay in school. They also have the option to quarantine at home for the 10 to 14 days.
“Some parents don’t want their kids tested and that’s fine,” Dr. Kline said. “They’re able to do that, they would just be placed on quarantine or a parent can take their student to a testing facility. They may also go to their doctor who may say it’s all right for them to return.
“The part that’s difficult right now, is that you have to quarantine from extracurricular activities as well,” he said of students who have been exposed. “So that’s where athletics is impacted unfortunately.”
Seeing it as a temporary setback as opposed to what could be a long term problem if not handled correctly, Kline sings the praises of the OJUSD Health staff against any other in the county.
“They have gone above and beyond and they need to be commended,” he said of the campus nurses and health aides. “They have been given this task and have worked diligently to make sure we test kids as fast as we can. To answer any questions and keep our students in school.”
Kline went on to share he felt OJUSD is doing it better than others, as not all districts have started the testing process. Some are still directing families to testing facilities or family doctors versus taking on the responsibility as a district.
“We’re not doing that,” he said. “We see the value in keeping our students in school. Our nurses are fantastic.”
As the district continues to navigate uncharted territory and work toward keeping campuses open and students, as well as the community safe, Kline recognized it can get the best of people in stressful times.
“I want to reiterate our health department is doing a fantastic job,” he concluded. “Their job is not easy, please give them some grace. Please be kind to them. They are working hard for us to make sure our kids stay in school and they deserve credit for keeping our kids here and seeing our campuses as safe as possible.”