McFarland School District will continue to move forward with its reopening plan following a COVID-19 outbreak that infected at least one teacher and six students. A total of 27 people were determined close contacts after a COVID-positive individual attended football practice.

“We had a number of positive [COVID-19] cases we were informed about over spring break,” said Director of Student Services Lauren Arango last week. “We have a positive staff case at CEPS, and we have six positive student cases at the high school.”

The district’s policy regarding positive COVID-19 cases requires a positive individual to quarantine for a period of 10 days following the date of a positive test. Close contacts of the positive individual are required to quarantine for 14 days, commencing on the date they are notified of their close contact status.

According to Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC), a close contact is anyone who remains within six feet of a positive individual for 15 minutes or longer over a 24-hour period.

The seven positive cases and 27 close contacts from one positive case alone will mean that at least 34 McFarland students and staff will be quarantined until mid-April.

District officials have indicated that the outbreak will not affect the schools’ plans to move forward with phase four of the district’s COVID-19 reopening plan, which includes four full days of in-person learning for grades 4k to eight and half days for high school students.

“Currently what we know about the cases that we have this week is that they were not in our school buildings or classrooms at the time of that positive test,” said Melissa Pfohl, director of teaching and learning. “We currently do not have any indication that our classroom settings are a risk, and so that’s why with the information we have right now, we’re not recommending a [backwards] transition… but we’ll continue gathering more information and if that changes, we might change our recommendation.”

As written, the district’s five-step COVID-19 reopening plan for grades 4k to eight requires three or more people within a grade level or five or more people within the school to test positive for COVID-19 within five days of one another before an official investigation is launched.

For grades nine to 12, five or more people within the school need to test positive within five days of one another to warrant an investigation to determine if there’s concern for wider spread of the virus within the building.

Pfohl said that, despite the 27 close contacts, an investigation into the outbreak at MHS did not yield concern for further action.

“The one case that had 27 close contacts, if those 27 close contacts never test positive or develop symptoms themselves, the fact that they’re close contacts is inconvenient certainly for them and their family, but it’s not unsafe,” she said. “If those 27 close contacts turn into 27 positive cases, that’s a completely different story and something we would respond to very differently.”

Due to privacy reasons, district officials were unable to share details on where and when the seven positive individuals contracted the virus.

While the district will not be halting its reopening plan at this time, Pfohl did confirm that summer school for the McFarland School District has been cancelled this year.

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