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Eagle Point schools remind families to screen kids for COVID-19

A district letter, part of a multi-week campaign on coronavirus prevention measures, was circulated Jan. 18.

Eagle Point School District sent out a letter to families recently reminding them to check their children for coronavirus symptoms before school starts, and if they detect any, to keep them at home.

The letter listed some of the major coronavirus symptoms, shared a link for more information about the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as how they can order free rapid testing kits.

“Keeping our schools open for in-person learning requires togetherness and teamwork,” the district stated in the letter. “Screening for symptoms at home helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 to staff and students. … If your child is experiencing any symptoms, please reach out to their school for support and direction.”

The letter comes as Eagle Point schools saw 85 student coronavirus cases in the last week alone, compared to 104 from the start of school through Jan. 7, according to Dean MacInnis, the district’s communications supervisor.

“That right there speaks to … what the [Oregon Health Authority] was saying that the Omicron variant is 70 times more contagious” than other coronavirus strains, MacInnis said. “The data reflects that, which is why it’s so important to screen students before they come to school.”

Those actions would be on top of the “visual screening” Eagle Point schools do already before students enter the building at the start of the day, according to MacInnis.

“It happens very [nonchalantly],” he said. “If we sit and ask every kid, ‘hey, do you have these symptoms?,’ we’d probably have to start school two hours early. That’s why we have our staff ... do visual screening. We see these students everyday, so if there is a difference in the way they are feeling, it usually comes down to the way they are acting — that’s a pretty telltale sign.”

MacInnis went on to reiterate the elements of the district’s campaign, which involved sending emails and robocalls to remind parents to do just that and practice the “layered” COVID-19 prevention practices at school, as mandated by the Oregon Department of Education.

Asked by the Mail Tribune whether it was “frustrating” to send out a letter reminding families to screen their kids for COVID-19 symptoms, MacInnis said it was not because the letter is part of the campaign.

But, he added, “I think we call be more aware of what we’re doing and that’s why we’ve been putting the messaging out there — ‘don’t forget to do these things.’ We can all possibly do a little more.”

That letter comes at the same time the district shared with constituents the Oregon Health Authority’s and Department of Education’s new COVID-19 prevention guidance, which includes shortening the isolation period and changing the definition of what is considered “up to date” on coronavirus vaccines.

Officials from other school districts the Mail Tribune spoke with said parents not screening their children before school has not been an issue lately.

“Parents have done a great job screening their kids ... which has helped keep our case counts down to a manageable level,” wrote Joe Zavala, communications specialist for the Phoenix-Talent School District.

Earlier in the year, however, he did send out reminders via Facebook to parents about screening their kids, but the last message was sent more than a month ago.

Kristin Hosfelt, communications specialist for Grants Pass School District 7, said school principals have told her parents not screening their kids for symptoms has not been an issue.

“We have also not had to send any specific communications out about this,” Hosfelt wrote in an email. “We do always include reminders of ‘stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands, etc.’ in all communications, however.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.