Two days after the Escondido Union School District returned to hybrid-model in-classroom teaching, 81 students and 18 staff members at four schools have been quarantined.
The members of the community were quarantined after seven different students tested positive at four different schools. According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard:
- Four of the positive cases are at Farr Elementary, leading to 44 students and 5 staff members being placed under quarantine
- At Pioneer Elementary, 1 positive case has led to 9 students and 2 staff members being quarantined
- At Rock Springs Elementary, 12 students have been quarantined as the result of 1 positive case.
- At Mission Middle School. 16 students and 4 staff members were quarantined after a single positive case
In addition, one positive case has led to four people being quarantined from the district’s maintenance and operations department.
As alarming as the numbers may look, the district’s superintendent said the positive cases and quarantines are not unexpected.
“Any time you get one case, of course, it’s alarming," Superintendent Luis Rankins-Ibarra said. "But we’ve got protocols in place and the quarantines occur as a precautionary measure."
The quarantines are likely to re-ignite the debate on the return to in-class teaching. In fact, Escondido Elementary Educators Association president Romero Maratea said the quarantines raise a tremendous concern.
“Our concerns about reopening now, which we expressed to the school board and superintendent, were primarily a result of the prevalence of the virus in Escondido as compared to other areas of the county," Maratea wrote in an email sent to NBC 7. "The numbers have spoken for themselves."
Under new public health guidelines, the quarantines last 10 days, which has been reduced from a previous guideline of two weeks.
The superintendent is confident the positive cases were not transmitted on campus but, rather, were brought in from the community.
Rankins-Ibarra also said robust safety protocols are in place, including temperature checks prior to students entering class, portable air-filtration systems in classrooms, spacing between desks, and compulsory mask wearing in classrooms. The students who tested positive may have been asymptomatic, which would explain how they were able to get into classrooms.
The elementary school hybrid model in the district allows for a maximum of 12 students in class. There are morning and afternoon cohorts, with students attending class four half-days a week.
Rankins-Ibarra said the decision to return to in-class instruction was made based on COVID-19 metrics trending in a positive direction recently
“It was really following the data, following the case rates and the percentage of positivity rates,” Rankins-Ibarra said.
“We believe we can sustain this for a long period of time," Rankins-Ibarra added. "I would have not recommended reopening if we were going to go right back into a full district closure or schools would suddenly going into closures."
Romero told NBC 7 that educators were concerned about just that -- the prospect of infections forcing the district to cycle between repeated closures.
“Our primary concern is for the safety of students, families and staff, some of which have already lost loved ones to the virus," Romero wrote. "The second concern is whether a return to campuses is sustainable. Parents and staff have voiced strong concern regarding the "on-again-off-again" scenario which has played out in our district. The numbers since live teaching and learning resumed this week are, unfortunately, not overly encouraging, and we must always remember that numbers represent real people.”