Two weeks ago, Mesa Elementary had a positive COVID-19 case and was likely to have a second. Based on guidance from the Montezuma County Public Health Department, the district closed the school and moved to online learning for two weeks.
A positive case at Montezuma-Cortez High School, confirmed Wednesday, is forcing 103 students and 10 staff members from the middle and high schools to quarantine.
The case confirmed Wednesday was the first that involved a district bus passenger, which increased the number of exposed students obligated to quarantine.
The student is in the “Camel Bus” cohort, which takes elementary school students home before the middle and high school students. The bus has a sticker of a camel on it to help remind younger students which bus to use.
Middle and high school students from the Camel Bus route were picked up by parents Wednesday evening. Elementary school students were taken home on a different bus because their route runs at a different time from the secondary schools and they had no contact with student who tested positive.
The bus is cleaned between routes.
“We are decommissioning the Camel Bus and cleaning it out of an abundance of caution,” Carol Mehesy, assistant superintendent, said in a phone interview with The Journal.
The county health department contacted parents and guardians of students who they believe were in close contact with the student who tested positive Wednesday.
“For our students who are required to quarantine, our teachers will continue to support your student’s education during this quarantine,” Principal Eric Chandler wrote in a letter to parents Wednesday afternoon.
Later Wednesday, Superintendent Lori Haukeness sent a letter to families in the Montezuma-Cortez district alerting them that the Montezuma County Public Health Department and Southwest Memorial Hospital has recommended all school districts in the county move students to online learning starting Nov. 30.
The school district plans to return to in-person learning by Jan. 11 if the coronavirus risk declines.
The Mancos School Board plans to hold a special meeting Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. with members of the health department to gather information before making the decision to go online. The Dolores School Board plans a similar meeting Nov. 12.
Ninety-six new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Montezuma County in October, a 70% increase, according to Southwest Memorial Hospital. As of Monday, the health department reported 270 total cases and 97 active cases in Montezuma County.
Haukeness’s letter to parents stated the hospital reported “an increase of patients needing hospitalization locally.” It also said the state’s capacity to treat high-needs patients, including those who might be transported from Montezuma County, was stretched by the increased cases.
Students who are moved to online learning after Thanksgiving will receive instruction and guidance from their current teachers. Online students using the Colorado Digital Leaning Solutions platform and teachers will continue to do so.
“I realize moving the district to remote learning creates a hardship in addition to an already stressful time,” Haukeness wrote, but COVID-19 is “far worse and more susceptible than the influenza.”
The Montezuma-Cortez district will hold a town hall meeting with parents on Zoom on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m. to answer questions. Parents interested in attending should watch the district’s website and Facebook page for information on joining.
Southwest Health System is holding a COVID-19 and flu testing drive-thru every week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 p.m. from 6 p.m.