Lake schools: Coronavirus data of staff, students a sensitive issue

By Lary Limpf

By Larry Limpf
News Editor

With children in the Lake School District, Catlin and Joshua Ashmore recently decided to keep them home for 14 days as a precaution in the wake of a student testing positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.
As of last week, three students at Lake have tested positive for the coronavirus, Jim Witt, district superintendent, said, including a kindergartener, who was the first, followed by a fifth grader and then a seventh grader, whose mother promptly informed the district on Oct. 21 of the test results.
A letter dated Oct. 5 – the day the administration was notified of the kindergarten student testing positive - was sent to parents of the student’s classmates.
“We are working very closely with and taking directives from the Wood County Health Department and we are in the process of notifying the parents of students who will need to quarantine. Exposed areas will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected in a timely manner and the school will remain OPEN,” the letter says.
In an Oct. 7 email exchange with Witt, Joshua Ashmore, who has children in kindergarten and middle school, thanks Witt for the update but says the letter doesn’t provide enough information for parents to know if their children were in an area that was infected or if the infected kindergarten student was in his child’s class.
Witt replied the student who tested positive wasn’t in the same class as the Ashmores’ daughter and the student had reached the end of the quarantine cycle and would be allowed to return to school Oct. 8.
“Somebody should look into it and see if it’s not worth shutting down the schools even if only for a couple of days to thoroughly clean. How can you clean one or two isolated areas and know where a virus may be spreading,” Joshua Ashmore told The Press. “The teachers kind of co-mingle back and forth between the schools. The concern we had initially is that our middle school daughter is severely asthmatic. We decided Oct. 6 or 7 to keep our kids home as a precautionary measure. But who knew if they already brought it home to us?”
The concern expressed by the Ashmores reflects the frustration felt by parents of students and the need for school systems to respect the medical privacy rights of staff and students.
A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health, said there is no requirement for what school districts have to list on their own websites regarding the coronavirus. Districts are required to report positive cases of staff and students to the health department but not required to distinguish whether a staff member is a teacher or other employee.
“We’re following what the (Wood County) health department tells us to do. We’re not hiding anything. We report our data to Wood County,” Witt said. “With every situation we come across we call the Wood County Health Commissioner and take their guidance. We follow their protocols to a T. Our health commissioner has been absolutely fantastic in his open lines of communication. We take their advice right down to the letter of the law.”

Weekly updates
The district updates coronavirus figures on its website every Friday, listing the number of employees and students who have been quarantined or isolated. As of Oct. 16, there were no employees quarantined – a drop of three from the previous week- and no employees were isolated, the same as the prior week. Thirty-five students were under quarantine, an increase of six, and one student was isolated.
Someone is quarantined for 14 days when they come into direct contact with a person who’s tested positive as symptoms may start two to 14 days after exposure. The quarantine ends when the person is symptom free for 14 days.
Isolation protocol covers someone who is sick and includes 10 days of self-isolation and one day fever free without the use of fever reducing medications before returning if symptoms have significantly improved.
Witt said he would consult with the health commissioner and legal counsel before considering whether to alter the list to show the numbers of teaching and non-teaching employees separately.
“We’re trying to be as transparent as we can but also respect the rights of privacy of our students and teachers and staff. Our information is out there for everyone to see. Whether it is on a state website or not we can’t control,” he said.
And the administration has streamlined its efforts to get information to parents in a more timely manner, according to Witt, who said the new process was put into effect when the mother of the seventh grade student
informed the administration of the test results.
“When the student's mother received the results, she immediately called the school. We changed a couple of the communication steps in an effort to get information to them in a more timely manner,” Witt said.
Alex Aspacher, a spokesman for the Wood County Health Department, said a problem with getting Lake data to the state health department has been corrected.
“We learned recently that due to a technology issue, a small number of COVID-19 cases from Lake Local Schools were not included in reports to the Ohio Department of Health. This created no concern for public health because the school district has been reporting this case information to the community. We have been in touch with the Ohio Department of Health to ensure that cumulative totals will be corrected on its dashboard, and cases from Lake will be included in our local weekly reports going forward,” Aspacher said.
Witt said the district has a flexible policy in light of the pandemic for letting students take classes online if their parents have legitimate concerns about them attending class. About 300 students are taking classes exclusively online, he said.


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association