NEW PALESTINE, Ind. — Students had just returned for the first day of the new year at New Palestine High School when the Hancock County Health Department called district officials with news that one of the students in school was positive for COVID-19.
“We put that student in isolation and began a contact tracing process,” said Wes Anderson, Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County spokesperson.
Administrators used tracing through seating charts to identify anyone with whom the student had close contact.
“We have seating charts in the cafeteria. We have seating charts for the library. We have seating charts on the bus, so whenever a positive case call comes or however many of them come, we can immediately go to the charts and start to identify those close contacts in minutes,” Anderson said.
School officials couldn’t give the exact number of close contact that ended up being but said it was a small number because they found out about the positive test early in the school day.
“State health department guidelines for close contact is a distance of six feet or less for 15 minutes or more,” said Anderson.
The students in question were isolated and sent home to quarantine for 14 days, a time period Anderson said is based on ISDH guidelines.
It is the second case of a New Palestine High School student testing positive for the virus. Last week, a student who plays football had a positive COVID-19 test. That student and other players who had been in close contact with him have all been quarantined, according to Anderson, also for a 14-day period.
Anderson said those students only had access to a weight room.
Even with Monday’s second case, school officials say they’re following Hancock County Health Department guidelines when it comes to the decision about whether a school should stay open or close.
“It is five active positives in one building would be cause for us to close,” Anderson explained.
All parents were notified by email about the new positive case and encouraged to monitor students for symptoms, something the district has been asking parents to do every morning before sending their kids to school.
In this case, the student had a note from a doctor saying it was OK to be in school. As it turns out, the date on the form was wrong.
In a statement released to 13News, the health department and Hancock Health said a full review of the test notification process is taking place.
The district urges parents to not send students to school if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a confirmed case of COVID-19 in their home or are waiting on COVID-19 test results.
Classes will continue as scheduled at New Palestine High School.