Local school districts plan ahead for possible COVID-19 outbreaks

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While districts have created reopening protocols, officials said they're also prepared to handle any potential positive COVID-19 cases at any of its campuses.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The first group of students have returned to the classroom in some El Paso area school districts.

While districts have created reopening protocols, officials said they’re also prepared to handle any potential positive COVID-19 cases at any of its campuses.

School districts including Socorro, Ysleta, Canutillo and El Paso are working closely with the City’s health department. Each follow similar guidelines as to how to handle any possible COVID-19 cases. All agree that the safety and health of students, teachers and staff is top priority.

Socorro ISD is one of the first El Paso area school districts that’s bringing some of its students back to campus. While preparing for any possibility of potential break outs of COVID-19 cases at its schools, the district among others are following guidelines set by the El Paso health leaders. That includes informing the local health department, and proceeding with the next step which would be contact tracing.

“We have been depending and in constant communication with the local health department we will inform them and follow their guidance. If we have to shut down a school then that’s what we’ll have to do,” said SISD Superintendent Dr. Jose Espinoza.

SISD said it will also be informing parents and employees of the campus if there are any positive cases.

Ysleta ISD is also beginning to phase in some of its students, starting with student-athletes. The district said it may take more than just one case before any shut downs.

“One positive case will not shut a campus down but we would work with them and identify that there were several at a campus then we would proceed with the local health authority to make that determination,” Lynly Leeper, Chief Financial & Operations Officer with YISD said.

If there are multiple COVID-19 cases at a school, district officials said the next step would be contact tracing.

“When that is complete, then the health department determines whether we need to close down a classroom for quarantine or if we need to shutdown the school,” Marnie Rocha, Assistant Superintendent with Canutillo ISD said.

“So it is a big difference if it was in a classroom, for instance in an elementary classroom where those students were there the entire time,” Melissa Martinez, Spokesperson with EPISD explained, “They didn’t leave, they didn’t interact with out students so we may only have to close or isolate that classroom. So those students and teacher would go home to quarantine until they’ve been cleared. That’s where the contact tracing comes in to look for exposure, how many people they came in contact with, where have the been, what is the extent of it.”

Starting next Monday, some students at Canutillo ISD will return to campus. YISD is set to reopen campuses for in-person learning on Oct. 19. EPISD has not yet determined a return date.

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