Bayfield High School closed Friday morning after a staff member reported positive COVID-19 test results.
The high school’s closure comes one day after the Bayfield School District quarantined 14 kindergarten students when a family reported positive test results. The primary school remains open for in-person instruction, said Superintendent Kevin Aten.
The high school and primary school cases were unrelated, and both cases were confirmed by San Juan Basin Public Health. The health department is working with the district on further investigation and contact tracing, Aten said.
“We decided, really out of an abundance of caution, to go ahead and close school and do a little more investigating,” Aten said.
As of Friday, the school district had not issued a reopening date for BHS. The last time the staff member had in-person contact with others at the school was briefly on Tuesday, and quarantine periods typically last 14 days.
The reopening date will depend on the public health investigation, Aten said. The district will release more information about reopening on Bayfield School District’s website, through email and/or by text message, Aten said.
In the meantime, teachers are preparing students for virtual learning. The district will decide Monday how long virtual learning will continue, Aten said.
“School administrators, teachers, staff, we’re all trying so hard to do what we think is best for kids,” he said. “It’s just really difficult right now.”
At Bayfield Primary School, the quarantined students will return to in-person lessons Nov. 10, two weeks from the last time the student had in-person contact with the class.
The primary school uses a cohort learning model, which places students in separate groups. Many school districts, including those in Durango and Ignacio, turned to the model this year in an attempt to limit possible spread of the coronavirus.
Bayfield adopted the cohort model for the first quarter of the school year. In late October, the district stopped using cohorts in the middle and high school. The schools also brought back the entire student body, instead of the former model in which students were in the building on alternating days.
The move was the district’s effort to help students struggling to learn remotely. While some staff members and parents supported the move, others were concerned about health risks heading into winter.
School officials are not rethinking the decision to drop the cohort model in response to the high school’s closure, Aten said.
Cohorts do not guarantee that viral spread will be limited – students and families mix outside of the classroom, he said.
“We feel really fortunate. We feel like every day we have kids in school is the best thing for kids,” Aten said. “We’ll do the isolating we need to do, and then our plan is to get kids back in school as quickly as possible.”