The following is an update from Howard County Public Schools on January 9, 2022:
Clarification Regarding HCPSS Contact Tracing Efforts, Jan. 9, 2022
In earlier communications, HCPSS provided information regarding contact tracing and changes to the way it will be handled as we see a rise in the number of positive cases in schools. The message inadvertently implied that HCPSS was no longer conducting any contact tracing following positive cases in our buildings. That has led to some questions and concerns and this message provides additional clarification and details regarding the HCPSS response to COVID cases, and information previously posted online has been updated.
The recent surge in mid-December made it necessary for HCPSS to make adjustments to its contact tracing process to ensure we are meeting legal requirements to provide accurate and timely data to the health department while supporting our students and staff who test positive.
HCPSS will continue the current processes for students who test positive by sending names and addresses to the Howard County Health Department, making personal contacts with families of students with COVID, and gathering information about cohorts where there are multiple cases of positive students. As long as the number of cases remains extremely high, HCPSS efforts will prioritize communication and education to families whose children test positive. HCPSS will continue to identify cohorts and share that information with the HCHD. School principals will continue to prioritize communication and education to families whose children test positive and notify the school community when there is a positive case in the building.
Unfortunately, the way we started out with contact tracing at the start of the school year is not sustainable. It was our hope that outsourcing some of this work to an outside contractor would help to increase the quality and timeliness of the data shared with the health department, however, the contractor was unable to fulfill this need. HCPSS central office and other school staff are supporting our health services staff to keep up with the current number of positive cases and we will continue to leverage this support to maintain our processes. In addition, HCPSS is currently in the process of developing a technology solution that can interface with our student record system and help to streamline data collection and sharing to improve the quality of data for both HCPSS and the HCHD. It is our goal that once COVID cases decline and with this new technology solution, we will be able to resume the level of contact tracing that occurred earlier in the school year.
HCPSS is thankful for our families and staff for their diligence with COVID testing and reporting positive results to our schools. We remind parents/guardians to perform daily health checks with their child every day and refrain from sending them to school if they show any symptoms associated with COVID-19 or any other communicable disease. Staff are to follow the same guidance. Please note that student absences due to sickness are considered excused absences.