Lynchburg teachers raise concerns about contact tracing methods

Back to School

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Ginna Haske is ready for her first grader to get back into the classroom.

“Small children need to explore and do hands-on activities and have freedom to be curious and learn through experience,” she said, “so I don’t think that virtual learning is best for that scenario.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, Lynchburg City Schools announced pre-K through second grade students will come back into the classroom “in the upcoming weeks.”

It has some parents, like Haske, excited that their children will get hands on learning again. She says that while health concerns should be taken seriously, she was glad to see young students are going back to school.

“I was grateful for the announcement officially. You know, we’ll see what’s possible. At this point, hopeful and optimistic that we can have a successful, in-person year.”

Some teachers are concerned about the district’s contact tracing. Multiple sources, who asked not to be named, said at least one teacher at a school in Lynchburg tested positive and is quarantined at home, but their colleagues in the same building have not been notified through contact tracers. They say they found out through Facebook.

WFXR News asked a district spokesperson about this and if they are able to scale up their contact tracing system once students are in the buildings. However, they wouldn’t answer questions or release any COVID-related data, instead directing us to the “Reporting/Notification and Response” section of the District’s Health Mitigation Plan.

“We like to have lots of information,” said Dr. Tonya Price, Program Director of the Masters of Public Health at the University of Lynchburg, “and we like to know about diseases that may be in our area, but we have to understand that health information is protected information.”

Price says a person is only considered a contact if they spent 15 minutes within six feet of someone.

“It is not guaranteed that the person would be contacted to know that a colleague received or had a positive test.”

According to Price, a staff member working in the same building as someone who tests positive — but who has not come in close contact with that person — has only a small chance of contracting coronavirus if they are wearing a mask, practicing good hygiene, and socially distancing.

Overall, Price believes our area is ready to start bringing in young students.

“I think big picture, I think we are doing all that we can do.”

She advises Virginians to download the COVIDWISE app for their smart phones, which notifies them if they do come into contact with someone who tests positive.

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