Student COVID cases reported on four of 10 CUSD campuses: podcast
by Mick Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org
At press time, it remained unclear whether six new positive COVID-19 infections among students at Condit Elementary School—after just six days of in-class instruction—could be deemed “an outbreak.”
“It’s all about related cases,” said Claremont Unified School District Assistant Superintendent, Human Services, Kevin Ward. “You need to have five cases that show a clear path of connection before it’s considered an outbreak.”
A Los Angeles County Department of Public Health investigator and CUSD Health Services Coordinator/School Nurse Alicia King were working to determine whether or not the cases at Condit constitute an outbreak.
“We’re just about there,” Mr. Ward said. “But I think they’re examining this last case to see if it qualifies as an outbreak.”
Positive COVID numbers among students at the district’s nine other sites include one at Chaparral Elementary, four at Sumner-Danbury, and six at Claremont High as of September 9.
On September 9, CUSD reported 213 of its students were in quarantine, 143 from elementary grades, and 70 among intermediate and high school kids.
Students and teachers in those four quarantined classrooms at Condit and one each at Sumner-Danbury and Chaparral have for now all shifted back to remote instruction.
One teacher from Condit is quarantined, with the other three affected instructors able to teach remotely from their classrooms.
As of September 9, there were no positive COVID cases or quarantined students at Mountain View, Oakmont, Sycamore or Vista elementary schools, with the same good news coming out of El Roble Intermediate and San Antonio High.
No CUSD administrators have been quarantined thus far, the district said on Wednesday.
The district’s online COVID dashboard, which includes numbers of confirmed cases at each school site updated at the end of each day, is at https://claremont-ca.schoolloop.com. Search “dashboard” for a look at the latest figures.
The site does not list numbers of quarantined students or staff.
Just last week, CUSD enjoyed a true first day of school, its first since 2019. The mood was largely celebratory across its 10 campuses, with students, teachers and administrators expressing hope they’d all be able to enjoy a full, uninterrupted year on campus, the first since the 2018-2019 term.
Though news of the positive cases after just six days of classes was certainly unwelcome, it was not unexpected, both CUSD Superintendent Jeff Wilson and Mr. Ward agreed. The hope is the curve is, once again, flattening.
“Based on what we’re seeing in the area with our colleague districts, knock on wood, I would say we’re still in a better position than a lot of districts around us,” said Mr. Wilson.
The super was referencing nearby Bonita Unified, which last week reported 40 students and 12 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 after a week in classrooms, resulting in an unreported number of staff and almost 500 students quarantined for 10 days. At press time, Bonita was reporting 48 students and 15 staff were positive for COVID.
“Hopefully [CUSD’s] numbers stay where they are right now,” Mr. Wilson said.
Mr. Ward said he’s heartened by the trajectory of the county’s new daily COVID case numbers; they’ve fallen recently from roughly 3,200 two weeks ago to 1,500 Monday, 1,250 Tuesday, and all the way down to 1,060 on Wednesday.
“We’re thinking very positively about the Delta variant right now,” Mr. Ward said. “I guess one of the beautiful things about opening a little later for us was that Delta variant was really peaking, I think, prior to our opening of schools” on September 1.
Los Angeles County’s August 22 health order stated public school teachers must produce proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing by October 15. Claremont Unified School District one-upped that, mandating its instructors show proof or agree to weekly testing by the first day of school, September 1.
The county’s order clearly states all school staff must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. It offers no carve-outs for exemptions from one or both.
This hasn’t prevented a handful—less than five, according to Mr. Wilson—of the district’s 845 permanent staff from requesting exemptions from vaccination and/or weekly testing. All cite religious reasons for the proposed exemptions.
“This is kind of new ground,” Mr. Wilson said. “This isn’t tested in terms of case law out there right now, so we’re kind of in that process with our staff.
“There are passages from the Bible that they quote in terms of not being subject to vaccination and/or testing,” Mr. Wilson said. One of the requests involves a staff member asking to be exempt from testing based in his or her interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:19, or the “body is a temple” passage.
Those requests are now working their way through CUSD’s “interactive accommodation process,” a sort of investigation/meeting procedure involving several steps, similar to the process for determining whether a student or staff member has a valid reason to be exempt from wearing a mask on campus.
“The accommodation process is a process of determining exactly what the requested accommodation is, and then looking at the district’s ability to meet that accommodation,” Mr. Wilson explained. “The law talks about that it can’t have a financial hardship on the district, nor can it significantly interrupt district operations, or the ability for an employee to complete their essential job functions. It’s kind of complicated.”
The end result of these religious exemption requests will likely involve CUSD offering an accommodation or set of accommodations, and the employees accepting those proposals or requesting other considerations, Mr. Wilson said.
Meanwhile, the overall compliance rate among district staff with its vaccinate or test weekly edict looks to be quite high, but final numbers aren’t yet clear.
“We’re still in process of collecting vaccinations, in fact I still have staff that are going out and getting vaccinated,” Mr. Wilson said. “The mandate for staff to turn in their vaccination status was the first day of school. So, my staff is still inputting all of those records.”
The recent partnership between CUSD and Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center resulted in 504 permanent school staff, out of about 845, receiving vaccinations.
Vaccination records for the remaining staff who were inoculated elsewhere are in the process of being verified and entered into CUSD’s system. Additionally, about 80 people provided proof of just one shot, so the district must contact those employees and determine whether or not they’ve been fully vaccinated, and if not, schedule an appointment for a second shot.
Mr. Wilson said he hoped to have the job of cataloguing the statistics finished in about a week, and will be able to report just how compliant district staff have been when those numbers are finalized.
The district and the county health department hosted a free community vaccination clinic at El Roble on Thursday, and are planning more in the near future. They will host a free community testing clinic next week, likely on Tuesday. Check https://claremont-ca.schoolloop.com for updated location and time. “Our whole goal is to stay ahead of these things and be proactive, and continue to push on the vaccination side while offering the service of testing to the community,” Mr. Wilson said. “We’ll keep pushing that front edge of what we’re able to do.”