THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Since the beginning of the pandemic, Gov. Jared Polis has said he and health officials would make decisions based on data. A dozen school superintendents say the data shows transmission inside schools is almost nonexistent, and they want the state to do away with mandatory quarantines.
“Quarantine has been a frustration all year long,” said Adams 12 Superintendent Chris Gdowski. “As we’ve been through this January through April stretch, the frustration that we’ve largely had during that period is student quarantine. We’re often sending large numbers of them out for 10 to 14 days at a time and we’re seeing very, very, very few of them contract COVID.”
A group of 13 rural and Front Range school districts combined data to show how much quarantines are affecting all districts.
In the middle of April nearly 7,000 students were forced to quarantine, but only 12 tested positive for coronavirus.
“We’re seeing very, very small numbers of in-school transmission and the interest of having kids in person becomes even more compelling at the end of the school year. So, they can finish strong is terribly important, not just for academic progress and their social development as well,” Gdowski said.
Superintendents told CBS4 they meet with students who say their academic and emotional wellbeing are at risk with more quarantines. Graduating seniors are concerned with missing tests and graduation, while other students are concerned of more choppy learning and constant switching from in-person to remote.
“They talked about the angst they have of potentially being in quarantine and missing their high school graduation, not being in person to take their advanced placement exam that can give them college credit. There’s lots of angst in how this can interfere with once-in-a-lifetime social events and school capstone events,” Gdowski said.
The group of superintendents sent a letter to the head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as well as the governor asking for quick action. No response has come.
“We don’t want schools to be a place that spreads the virus in ways that compromise the health and safety of our communities. And giving this in school transmission data, schools are not causing the transmission that is causing challenges in the broader community,” Gwdowski said.
He also urged the state to take a new look at the health protocols since they’ve become much more restrictive compared to other health outbreaks in the past.
“Historically when we’ve talked about outbreaks in school, norovirus would be a good example, we characterize an outbreak as taking out a quarter or a third of students and then we’d shut down a school for a few days and clean it. That’s what we consider to be an outbreak historically. Now, if we have two kids around each other and have COVID within 14 days of each other, we’re characterizing that as an outbreak. Even though there’s not wide spread transmission, even though kids aren’t becoming seriously ill, and even though the quarantines cause a huge cost in terms of continuity of instruction, we need to change our mindset back,” Gwdowski said.