COVID-19 cases found at Mt. Edgecumbe High School

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 5:29 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Two Mt. Edgecumbe High School students have tested positive for coronavirus, the boarding school’s superintendent said in an interview Friday.

In an email to parents, Mt. Edgecumbe administrators had said that two people on the campus tested positive for COVID-19. The students, Superintendent Janelle Vanasse said, are now in isolation.

“Part of Mt. Edgecumbe’s plan is to do testing as soon as students arrive,” Vanasse said, “and to get rapid results, so we can identify a potential virus a student might be carrying.

“So what happened,” she said, “is we had two students who were unaware that they would test positive, that did indeed test positive. And we were able to isolate them right away.”

Those who were reported to be in close contact with the two infected individuals are also reported to be in quarantine.

The tests were reported Friday and were a part of a routine testing protocol. The students were asymptomatic at the time, according to Vanasse.

“Because students and staff have followed the plan, very few students were potentially exposed. Please encourage your child to continue to follow all of the restrictions that are necessary as we move through this transition back to campus. To honor the privacy of the persons involved, their names will not be shared,” the email to parents states.

School does not start until Aug. 24, but many students are currently traveling to Mt. Edgecumbe from around the state. To get there, the school has asked students to take a test in their home community, take another test upon arrival in Sitka and isolate in their dormitory until a negative COVID-19 result has come back.

Several weeks ago, Vanasse said students coming to Sitka from high-risk areas will be traveling separately and will be quarantined in a separate location until the school has two negative results.

“People are coming from all over the state and we’re bringing students together, so that’s why we have a pretty strict plan for our first two weeks that will really reduce the number of kids that students will be interacting with,” Vanasse said.

After the initial tests and quarantines are complete, a quarter of the student body is expected to undergo routine weekly testing, resulting in the entire student body getting tested monthly.

“If you have not been contacted, your child was not potentially exposed,” the email states.

Vanasse said she has been receiving concerned calls from parents but said, “at this point, we have nobody who has pulled their child” from attending Mt. Edgecumbe.

The high school has set up two areas for students who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The “warm zone” is for students who are not confirmed to have the virus but are awaiting a test result. The “hot zone” is for all students with a confirmed COVID-19 test.

While students are in isolation, they will still be able to remotely access their classrooms.

“We know this year we need to be flexible with education and be prepared for any given time that a student might not be able to access the classroom physically.”

During the first two weeks at school, students will be limited to their dorm rooms. Once that time has passed, they will then be grouped into cohorts. Since Mt. Edgecumbe is a boarding school, once the critical period has passed, Vanasse said it will be easier for the school to limit community transmission than other in-person programs.

“The advantage we have is that we know where our students are at night and who they are being exposed to,” Vanasse said.

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