On March 18, Vashon Island School District announced a new case of COVID-19 in a staff member in the district office located in the Chautauqua Elementary School building.
In an email to district parents, Superintendent Slade McSheehy said that the positive case was not the result of any school program or activity. He additionally noted that Seattle King County Public Health and Vashon Medical Corps had been informed of the case and that contact tracing had taken place.
Those potentially exposed to the infected person, including additional VISD staff members, have now tested negative for COVID-19; a few of those staffers, however, will remain in quarantine for 14 days, in accordance with the district’s protocols and guidelines from the state Department of Health.
The news came less than three weeks after the district began its roll-out of hybrid education at the elementary school on March 1.
Currently, students in grades pre-K through 3rd grade are now attending in-person classes at Chautauqua four half-days per week; 4th and 5th graders are scheduled to return on the same schedule on March 29. Students at Vashon High School and McMurray Middle School will resume limited, in-person learning on April 12.
When contacted by The Beachcomber, both school nurse Sarah Day and McSheehy cited privacy concerns in declining to provide any additional information about the case, including whether or not the infected staff member had been partially vaccinated or was symptomatic at the time of the exposure.
In recent weeks, The Beachcomber and the Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center have reported on the effort to vaccinate school staff and child care workers on Vashon, following Gov. Inslee’s decision to open vaccine eligibility for this group on March 2. In the EOC’s weekly situation report published on March 11, it was reported that nearly 300 teachers, para-educators and other staff of schools and licensed child care facilities on Vashon had received their first dose of the vaccine.
At a March 11 school board meeting, McSheehy said more than 70% of VISD’s staff had received at least one dose of the vaccine, suggesting that the number could be even higher because he had not yet received the latest reports that week from Sea Mar and Vashon Pharmacy.
Partially vaccinated people are not fully protected from being infected with COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control. On its website, the agency explains that full vaccination occurs two weeks after the second dose in a two-dose series, or two weeks after a single dose vaccine such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
VISD’s COVID-19 Safety Handbook stipulates that all staff and students who experience any symptoms of illness must stay at home.
Additionally, prior to coming onto campus, all district staff and students are required to complete daily health attestations, confirming that in the past 24 hours they have not been in close contact with anyone with confirmed COVID-19 or experienced health symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 infection. These symptoms include, among others, fever, a new cough, shortness of breath, or other signs of a new illness unrelated to a pre-existing, non-infectious condition such as seasonal allergies.
McSheehy, in an email, said that the quarantine of workers in the district office would have minimal impact on operations.
“The district office staff, before we were in Phase II and phasing in our PreK students, were working remotely some of their time so we are accustomed to working remotely,” he said.