Board gets COVID-19 update within USD 457 schools

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Flags blow in the wind outside the USD 457 Educational Support Center, 1205 N. Fleming St.

The status of COVID-19 within schools was given at the regular USD 457 Board of Education meeting Monday. 

Glenda LaBarbera, USD 457 assistant superintendent, said the district is starting to see a little bit of an uptick. 

Year to date, as of Oct. 15, there have been a total of 268 new positive student COVID tests and there were a total of 28 new positive tests, LaBarbera said. There were 24 the prior week. 

The average number of students sent home per day with COVID symptoms has increase to 5.3 for the week of Oct. 11-14 from an average of 4.8 for the week of Oct. 4-8, LaBarbera reports. Daily absences have increased as well.

"For the day last week we went from 111 to 121, so gain we're seeing a lot more absenteeism due to COVID," she said. 

That number is not just positive COVID tests, but symptoms and exposures, LaBarbera said.

"These are all students that are absent and then the bottom line is just due to COVID, but it can be quarantine because of a family member, so it doesn't mean they're positive with COVID," she said. "Weekly attendance rate though is holding steady through last week at 89%. I'd like to see it at 90%, but we're not there yet."

The average number of students quarantined per day has also increased, LaBarbera said, going from 109 for the week of Oct. 4-8 to 121 from the week of Oct. 11-14 and increasing to about 125 as of Monday. 

There is also a gradual increase with staff positives per week as well, LaBarbera reports.

"We had two back here at the end of September then we went to 10 and then last week 11," she said. "We're seeing that gradual increase again in staff. We currently have 16 staff out with COVID."

Seven elementary schools, both intermediate schools, both middle schools and Garden City High School are currently have yellow status. 

LaBarbera said students who test positive have had few symptoms, mainly a headache and not much else. A nurse told her that normally when a student would come to the office with a headache prior to COVID they would have them "take a deep breath, maybe have a mint" and wait and see if they can go back to class. They can't do that anymore, they have to call a parent and say headache is a sign of COVID.

"They did have a family that said let's test them and see and they were positive, and the only sign the child had was a headache," she said. "I think we're seeing lots of maybe just one or two symptoms or mild symptoms and I think that's happening with staff as well."