by Avery Prudenti ‘22
Since the beginning of the year, Covid protocols have been constantly changing and shifting. The state, county, and individual schools have been merging their plans together to create a cohesive system designed to create the safest environment possible for students and staff.
At the beginning of the year when students enrolled, their parents were given the option to provide their children’s Covid vaccination status to the school health records. School Administration does not have access to the database including these student records; however, school nurse Irene Gumicio, who is employed by the county’s Department of Health rather than MCPS, has the ability to access the Maryland database of anyone who got the vaccine in the state, even if parents did not send the records to Sherwood specifically. This is to help contact tracing if a student were to test positive.
According to Assistant Principal Stephanie Gelfand, if administration gets a report of a student being Covid positive, they are instructed to ask the person when they became symptomatic as well as when they got their test results. Once they have this information, administrators will examine the three days after the Covid-positive student first became symptomatic to see if and when they were in school. The school’s designated contact tracer uses classroom seating charts–which have been uploaded by teachers onto a google form–to see which students were sitting within a three-feet radius of the positive student. Once they have a list of the students, Gumico checks the vaccination status data to see who in the list is vaccinated or unvaccinated.
“Montgomery County has their covid process and procedures in place,” said Gelfand, “They are becoming more consistent. I like their assistance in covid tracing and that the state is coming out with a consistent plan.”
A vaccinated student who was in contact with a Covid-positive student is not notified. An unvaccinated student will be contacted and has two options. The unvaccinated student either quarantines for a certain period of time, or as of late November, they can opt to stay in school and are required to sign up for the voluntary testing that is currently occurring. For the fall sports seasons, athletes were given the option to get a Covid test and remain in school instead of quarantine.
In September, MCPS contacted parents and gave them the option to sign their children up for Covid testing during school. Those who were signed up by their parents, around 130-150 students total at Sherwood, have been called out of class randomly to go to room B208 where Montgomery County staff conduct rapid PCR tests on the students. The test results are sent to the individual students and Principal Tim Britton. This testing now is an option for unvaccinated students to opt in if they are in contact with a Covid-positive person.
This process is different for staff members who contract Covid, though. Unless the staff member is within three feet of a student and masks are not in place, students will not be contacted. Even with the different rules for teachers and students, a letter is sent out for both. These letters are sent when a student or staff member tests positive and they are sent to the entire school community. These letters are prewritten and only the specific details of each case are changed and they are intended to clarify information for people to help them from panicking with fear that there is a small outbreak.