Bishop school district takes prevention steps regarding COVID-19 virus

Terrance Vestal
Managing Editor

The Bishop Unified School District on Monday sent out letters to families providing a combination of updated and direct information from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), California Department of Education (CDE), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the transmission and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as it relates to the school community.
There have been no documented cases of COVID-19 infection in either Inyo or Mono counties. According to the CDC, there were 647 cases of the COVID-19 disease in the U.S., including 157 confirmed cases in California as of Tuesday.
Interim Superintendent Katie Kolker said Wednesday that she and other Inyo County superintendents will be meeting today to discuss recent direction from those agencies and update the district’s communication/plans accordingly.
“This is an ongoing and ever-changing discussion as I’m sure you can imagine,” Kolker said.
The letter states that, as far as prevention, the district has taken the following steps:
• All student and staff attendance incentives have been put on hold. Traditional expectations such as requiring a doctor’s note for consecutive absences due to illness will be laxed and dependent on each family’s individual circumstances.
• Student restrooms have all been stocked with soap and paper towels. Staff has communicated to students the importance of regular and effective hand washing.
• Custodial staff have increased their frequency and enhancement of regular cleanings, focusing on touch surfaces on all campuses. All campuses and school buses will get a thorough and deep clean over Spring Break while students are not at school.
• Lysol disinfectant spray has been provided for every classroom, school bus and gathering area.
• Students and staff who present with a fever and/or respiratory infection systems will be sent home immediately.
• Teachers shall begin to develop lesson plans which outline how curriculum would be offered/structured for students using a distance-learning model if intervention measures are required in the future.
• Each site’s Comprehensive School Safety Plan is in the process of being updated to include specific procedures to address an infection disease outbreak.
• The district will contact Inyo County Public Health if staff notices a spike in absenteeism.
• Office staff will maintain updated contact information for all students in the district’s student database.
The district’s notice also outlines contingency plans that would be considered in specific situations. If the local Public Health Department at any point confirms two or more community transmission cases, but no staff or students at the school have tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to the prevention items listed above, CDPH recommends that the district implement the following:
• Staff with any fever and/or respiratory infection symptoms should not come to work. Staff should self-screen themselves for symptoms before interacting with students.
• Sick leave policies allow staff to stay home if they have symptoms of a respiratory infection.
• Limit visitors to the school.
• Consider and implement alternatives to large group gatherings such as assemblies, recess, and lunch such as conducting assemblies via the internet, using schools’ speaker systems for announcements, staggering recess and lunch times by individual classrooms, etc.
If one student or staff member tests positive the district would consider school closures, according to the notice.
If multiple BUSD schools have a student or staff member test positive the district would initiate school closures and consult with Public Health to determine the length of time recommended for school closures. The district also would develop and carry out communication plans for school closures to include outreach to all stakeholders. Other steps would include:
• Develop and communicate a plan for continuity of educational services and meal programs.
• Implement distance learning plans for students according to comprehensive school safety plans.
• Provide additional guidance re: social distancing measures.
• Continuously communicate and consult with Public Health to determine cleaning protocols and other additional steps needed for schools to reopen.